Friday, April 10, 2015

Ky. law enforcement cracking down on distracted driving this month

In conjunction with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement agencies in Kentucky are stepping up efforts to persuade drivers to put down the phone as part of the second annual national texting enforcement crackdown – U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

“Driving and texting is illegal and irresponsible,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock, who is Gov. Steve Beshear’s designated representative for highway safety and chair of the Governor’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety. “We are serious about stopping this deadly behavior, so all drivers must know that if you are texting while driving, you will be stopped and fined.”

Violating Kentucky’s texting law, which took effect April 15, 2010, can be costly. Violators will be liable for fines of $25 on a first offense and $50 on each subsequent offense, plus court costs.

“For those who say that driving and texting is an epidemic, we believe enforcement is part of the cure,” said Kentucky Office of Highway Safety Executive Director Bill Bell.  “That is why our office is distributing federal overtime funds to select agencies throughout the state to strictly enforce our anti-texting law.”

The law bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers over 18, it allows the use of global positioning devices and reading, selecting or entering a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a phone call. Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.

For drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices, such as cellphones and pagers, is allowed while the vehicle is in motion. The use of a global positioning system is allowed, but manually entering information must be completed while the vehicle is stopped.

“We also want drivers to realize that a fine is not the only consequence of distracted driving,” said Hancock.  “In fact, this year’s campaign hits close to home.”

A radio spot was recorded by Transportation Cabinet employee Nancy Wood, the Public Information Officer in the District 6 Office in Covington.  Nancy’s daughter, Brianna, was severely injured when her vehicle was hit by a distracted driver in 2011.

“It’s been a long journey with multiple surgeries and hospital stays, but Brianna is lucky because she survived,” said Wood. “I hope my story will help prevent other parents from receiving the type of call we all dread – that our child has been involved in a crash.”

In Kentucky in 2014, there were over 53,500 crashes resulting in over 14,000 injuries and 169 fatalities due to distracted driving.

“Texting and driving requires motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving,” said Bell. “It creates the proverbial ‘perfect storm’ for a crash, and no one has the right to do that on our roadway.

According to a 2014 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.

The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute’s 2012 “Teen Driver Distraction Study” reports that a quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, and 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.

“It’s not that complicated,” said Bell. “If you drive and you text, you will pay.”

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