Waterbury police begin crackdown on distracted drivers

New Haven

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and 31 drivers so far found out the hard way that police officers in Waterbury are being extra vigilant looking out for drivers who are watching their cell phones more than they’re watching the road.

“Distracted driving is a significant cause of accidents on par with drunk driving,” said Waterbury Officer, Mike Terzigni. “Anything we can do to reduce that and make the roads safer for motorists, the better.”

Those drivers who got pulled over on Tuesday now have to pay a $150 fine. Along with their ticket, they also got an informational flyer packed with statistics that highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

   Among some of the info on the flyer:

  •    Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into a serious crash.
  •   In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  •   Approximately 391,000 people were injured in 2015.

   “It’s scary,” said Bonnie Gensberg, who says she was almost hit by a distracted driver on I-84. “And all of a sudden the car in the next lane is cutting right in front of me, not looking. Her head was down and I was pretty sure she was texting and I had to slam on my brakes.”

Related: Distracted Driving Awareness Month kicks off Monday

   People News8 spoke with in Waterbury agree with the stepped-up enforcement effort because they say too many people are preoccupied with their cell phones when their full attention should be on the road. One man, who wanted to remain anonymous, tells News8 one of his friends caused an accident once because of distracted driving.

   “She said she dropped her cell phone while driving,” he said. “I said what are you doing with your cellphone in your hand anyway? And when she reached down to pick it up, she hit the back of a car.”

   The sergeant in charge of the enforcement effort in Waterbury recalled a fatal accident a couple of years ago in the Brass City because of distracted driving.

   “On Prospect Road — an unfortunate situation where a person lost their life because they were texting,” said Sgt. Gerard Hanson.

   Tuesday was the first day of a month-long enforcement effort in Waterbury. Other Connecticut cities and towns are doing this, too.

   The informational flyer they’ll hand out with the tickets also explain Connecticut state law where distracted driving is concerned:

   “No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon any highway while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while a mobile electronic device. An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device shall be in violation of this section.

   It goes on to explain that drivers who are 16 or 17 are prohibited from using a cell phone or mobile device — even with a hands-free accessory. And it defines distracted driving as any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle.

There are three types of distractions:

  •    Visual — taking your eyes off the road
  •    Manual — taking your hands off the wheel
  •    Cognitive — taking your attention away from driving

The slogan for this enforcement campaign is: U Drive. U Text. U Pay…..zero tolerance.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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