U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign underway

From April 4 to April 30, The Connecticut Department of Transportation will be partnering with state and local law enforcement as part of the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign, a high-visibility effort to enforce distracted-driving laws.

“Although we are all well-versed in the dangers of distracted driving too many drivers continue to ignore their responsibilities when they use Connecticut’s roadways,” said Jim Redeker, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “Every time drivers choose to pick up the phone rather than focus on the road they put themselves and other roadway users in danger.” That’s why the Connecticut Department of Transportation is again teaming up with State and local police during April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) National Distracted Driving Awareness month to make sure all motorists keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Violating Connecticut’s distracted driving laws can be costly. Drivers who are ticketed for this violation can be fined $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for third and subsequent offenses.

Although Connecticut crash stats under-report the true number of distracted driving crashes, available data show about 7% of crashes in the two plus years since 2015 have been attributed to some form of driver distraction in the state of Connecticut. This includes about 3.5% of the state’s fatal crashes and 9% of injury crashes.

National estimates by NHTSA, mark 10% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle crashes in 2015 as distraction-affected crashes.

A study conducted by the DOT two years ago showed that motorists do respond to campaigns like this one, at least in areas where heavy high visibility enforcement takes place. During a similar effort, observed phone use by drivers dropped 9% from pre-enforcement levels. The DOT is working again to measure the effectiveness of ongoing enforcement campaigns on driver behavior and is conducting another round of observations in conjunction with this effort.

“Unfortunately, it takes time for people to get the message,” Redeker said. “To use another traffic safety example, it took nearly two decades for drivers to make buckling up every trip a common practice. We’re going to continue campaigns that target people who choose to pick up a phone when they’re behind the wheel, rather than concentrate on the task of driving. It’s the only way to drive that message home,”

Another analysis commissioned by the DOT estimated that 2016 distracted related crashes accounted for more than $142 million in societal costs in Connecticut alone. “It shows we still have a long way to go,” Redeker said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress. Our law enforcement partners are committed to working to making our roads safer; their participation in these campaigns is a sign of that dedication.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation urges you to put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and park your vehicle in a safe place first.