Police Cracking Down on Motorists Using Hand-held Cell Phones

Police Cracking Down on Motorists Using Hand-held Cell Phones

Through November 20th, police in Delaware are cracking down on scofflaws who refuse to comply with the state's ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving.

Since the beginning of 2011, the state law has prohibited motorists from using hand-held cell phones or other electronic devices to hold conversations, send text-messages or access the Internet.  First-time offenders face a $50 fine, while repeat violators get hit with a ticket of between $100 and $200.

"It is important to raise the level of awareness regarding the negative impact cell phone use has on drivers and the potential consequences that it creates for all of us on the roads," said State Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek, who was one of the prime sponsors of the cell phone law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes kill more than 30,000 people in the U.S. annually and seriously injure another 3.5 million.  The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 24 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use.

In its 2012 report, "State of the Nation of Cell Phone Districted Driving," the NSC asserted: "Although there can be many distractions in a vehicle, cell phone use by drivers is a particularly deadly threat, not because the activity is the most dangerous thing a driver can do, but because so many drivers are engaging in the behavior and for greater lengths of time.  The combination of high risk and high exposure makes cell phone use while driving a top distraction."

Delaware is conducting three, two-week waves of overtime enforcement as part of a pilot project funded by grant money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  In announcing the grant in June outside of Legislative Hall, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said "distracted driving is an epidemic" in the nation.

The current "first wave" of enhanced enforcement of Delaware's cell phone law began on Wednesday and runs through the 20th.  Two more waves are slated for next year: April 9-22 and June 4-17.

Rep. Miro said the stepped-up enforcement is a welcome development.  "Despite the fact that numerous studies clearly show that talking or texting on a cell phone while driving greatly increases the likelihood of a crash, many motorists continue to defy the law," he said.  "Since it went into effect at the start of last year, police have issued nearly 20,000 cell phone citations.  Convenience is a poor excuse for endangering your own safety, as well as that of surrounding motorists and pedestrians."

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