Cracking Down on Distracted Driving in Greenwich
The law that increased fines for distracted driving included a provision making it illegal to use a cell phone while stopped in traffic.
It seems that regardless of the warnings, clever signs such as 'Honk if U love Jesus. Text to meet him,' drivers continue to think it's OK to text and talk on the cell phone while driving.
"Anecdotally, those rear-end accidents that happen when it's not raining — more than likely a phone is involved," says Greenwich Police spokesman Lt. Kraig Gray.
What many drivers don't realize that the new state law that increased fines for distracted driving that went into effect in October, also banned cell phone use even when a driver is stopped in traffic. "The law is while the car is in operation, even when you're stopped at a light, you can get a ticket," said Greenwich Police Traffic Technician Roger Drenth.
In the past three years, Greenwich Police have issued nearly 1,400 tickets to drivers caught texting or talking on their phones. Here's the breakdown: 490 tickets were issued in 2011; 328 in 2012 and 679 in 2013.
And the enforcement effort continues in earnest, police said. "I'll stop drivers and give them verbal warnings about using the cell phone, Gray said. "They say, 'I know. You're right but I did it.' "
Drenth said, "We're always enforcing. It'll be part of our click it or ticket seatbelt campaign that'll be border to border in May. We'll be setting up with New York police" on the Port Chester, NY border for a special enforcement day on May 19.
Gray said that several Greenwich officers directing traffic at road construction sites have had close calls with distracted drivers.
"The officers who direct traffic often see distracted driving...people texting and the new dynamic of texting makes it pretty nerve-wracking. These people are not paying attention at all," Gray said.
The increased fines for distracted driving was staunchly supported by Greenwich's state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151), himself an accident victim involving a driver using a cell phone. He led the charge during the 2013 legislative session for the increased fines after being approached by the girlfriend of a marathon runner who was fatally injured during a run in Norwalk, when he was struck by a 16-year-old girl who was texting while driving.
Drivers cited for distracted driving will face fines of $150 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense.