HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ State and Hartford-area police are bolstering patrols this week to look for distracted drivers as part of a federal pilot program.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and police officials announced the fourth and final enforcement wave of the program at a Capitol news conference Monday. Police are looking for drivers talking and texting on cell phones and doing other distracting activities through Friday, in a campaign called “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other.”

Police in the Hartford and Syracuse, N.Y., areas were chosen to participate in the initiative, which federal officials plan to use to create a national program. State police and officers in Hartford, West Hartford and East Hartford issued about 6,900 citations for talking on cell phones and 348 citations for texting during the first three waves that began last year.

It’s illegal in Connecticut to use cell phones without hands-free devices while driving. Fines are $100 for a first offense, $150 for a second violation and $200 for subsequent violations.

About 5,500 people die on U.S. roads in crashes reported to involve distracted driving each year, and another 450,000 are injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Police say the percentage of Hartford-area drivers seen holding phones to their ears dropped from 6.8 to 3.1 after the first two enforcements waves.

Waterford third-grader Nina Pezzello and North Haven fifth-grader Lynnsey Spader urged people to not drive distracted at Monday’s news conference. Nina is having people sign pledges to not drive distracted, while Lynnsey put together a presentation on the issue for her class.

“Distracted driving is against the law,” Nina said. “So all you have to do is follow the rules and a lot of people won’t have to die.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (3)
  1. Way to go Connecticut! Keep up the good work. Maybe the rest of the nation will do the same. We are working on Texas. Thanks Nina.

  2. Jeanne Brown says:

    My family represents the Remember Alex Brown Foundation – our goal is to save lives by ending texting and driving. We are SO proud of Nina and her family for supporting responsible driving. God bless you!!

  3. Herb Asbury says:

    My wife was killed instantly when a distracted driver did not see a 5 sec yellow light, the light turn red, 1 sec delay for the green left hand turn arrow, and 3 to 4 seconds for my wife to move forward to where he hit her at 55-60 mph.. He was distracted for at least a total of 9 to 10 seconds with no time left to hit the brakes! No cell phone, no texting, just plain distracted while he adjusted his radio!

    If the driver is that easily distracted, he/she should lose their license for a significant length of time, i.e., several years! Teen, adult, or old!

    It should be noted that a fender bender is only a fraction of a second away from being a fatal accident! Traffic engineers should give the alert driver as much advantage as they can to avoid a crash with a distracted driver!

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