Police to "spy" on drivers suspected of texting and driving

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Although bans on texting while driving are being implemented in more states and communities, enforcement of the bans has proven difficult.  A new federal grant may make enforcement easier.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a $550,000 grant that enable police departments in Connecticut and Massachusetts to test several anti-texting while driving programs.  NHTSA chief David Strickland stated that the goal of the grant was to find “real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving.”

Texting behind the wheel is banned in 38 states, however, law enforcement officers must prove that an individual suspected of texting is using their phone to text rather than for a permitted use.  Other than in the ten states that have banned all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel, simply having a phone in the hand is not a sufficient justification for an officer to ticket the driver.  An officer must observe the driver “thumb type” before the officer can pull the driver over.  For example, in 2011 Minnesota police wrote only 1,200 tickets for texting while driving.  Scranton, Pennsylvania police issued only ten tickets in the first six months following that state’s texting ban.

The NHTSA grant will pay for “spotters on overpasses” and other highways.  In Bismarck, North Dakota, 31 distracted driving tickets were written in two days during a crackdown in which unmarked, high riding trucks and SUVs were used to look down into vehicles, catching violators in the act. The North Dakota ban prohibits Internet browsing as well as texting.  One North Dakota police officer told The Bismarck Tribune that they could have written twice as many tickets but, because the officers had to see the specific “apps” drivers were using before ticketing for Internet usage, they could not get sufficient evidence.

For more information, contact the Ohio cell phone accident lawyers at Clark, Perdue & List.

Source: Motoramic, “Police to spy on drivers suspected of texting in federal test,” Justin Hyde, October 18, 2012.