Local News

Distracted Driving Crackdown Underway

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(Bruno Vincent/Getty Images News)

(Bruno Vincent/Getty Images News)

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.)

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