The Wilton Police Department is upping its focus on distracted driving over the next two weeks, as part of the CT Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office initiative, “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” The campaign is an effort to crackdown on motorists who choose to text, talk or otherwise distract themselves from the task of driving by using a hand-held mobile phone.

The campaign began on Aug. 3 and will run through Aug. 16. It marks the second time this year the Wilton Police have mobilized special patrols aimed at catching distracted drivers, especially those on their phones.

During the last operation, which took place during April 2016, Wilton Police made a total of 190 motor vehicle stops for distracted driving related offenses, and as a result issued 116 distracted driving infractions—107 of which were directly part of a Distracted Driving High Visibility Enforcement Grant given specifically for the April effort. Statewide, the campaign resulted in over 12,000 citations issued to motorists who chose to ignore Connecticut’s distracted driving laws.

Nearly 50 law enforcement agencies including both state and local police are again participating in the initiative in August, aimed at keeping Connecticut’s roadways safe.

According to surveys conducted after last year’s crackdown, there was an 8.0-percent drop in mobile phone use by drivers at observation locations throughout municipalities where police conducted enforcement. The drop in observed use is encouraging to law enforcement agencies, and demonstrates the need to reinforce to motorists that mobile phone use while driving is both dangerous and illegal.

“We’re making gains,” says Wilton’s police chief Robert Crosby. “Considering the seriousness of this problem and the fact that we saw movement in the right direction is a sign we need to continue to this program.”

April’s enforcement stops used one Wilton officer as a plainclothes ‘spotter’ in a discrete spot up the road from where other officers were waiting. The spotter would radio the uniformed enforcement officers when he noticed a driver committing a distracted driving violation. As the driver approached the team waiting ahead, he or she was pulled over and stopped.

The Department of Transportation announced in April that the results of recent research found an estimated 11.1 million of occurrences of distracted driving happen each day throughout the state of Connecticut. According to the findings, in total, it is estimated that 9.6-percent of drivers were either texting or talking on a hands free device.

Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, violations involve heavy fines, ranging from $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second violation, and $500 for each subsequent violation.

In 2014 alone, 3,179 people were killed and an estimated additional 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Connecticut remains the only state in the nation to receive special distracted driving prevention funds – the same funds that allow for special patrols to identify, stop and cite drivers who choose to ignore distracted driving laws. Over $6.8 million dollars has been awarded to the state over the last three years specifically – to fund campaigns like this one. Connecticut qualifies for this federal funding source through a mix of tough laws – and, a proven track record in strong enforcement of distracted driving laws.

More information about national distracted driving issues is available online.