ST. GEORGE — Distracted drivers in St. George on Friday may be in for a rude awakening. The St. George Police Department has extra officers in the field looking for drivers distracted by cell phones or otherwise, pulling them over and writing tickets.
“The Heads Up Thumbs Up campaign is something we’ve been endorsing for a while now. It’s obviously a campaign focusing on distracted driving,” St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said. “From time to time, we have officers go out and focus their efforts on distracted driving. Today is one of those days where we do have some officers dedicated to Heads Up Thumbs Up or targeted enforcement on distracted driving.”
Whenever the St. George Police add the extra patrols, they stay quite busy, Despain said.
“It’s typically not hard to find those distracted drivers,” he said. “I know they’re out doing it, and they are making a lot of stops, that’s for sure.”
There are four officers dedicated to looking for distracted drivers Friday.
Despain said the community is very supportive of law enforcement efforts to ticket drivers who are paying more attention to their cell phones than the road in front of them.
“We often hear frustration about people who are on cell phones or who are just not paying attention while they’re driving,” Despain said. “So they’re happy to see us out there, looking for these violations.”
It is no longer possible to claim ignorance when it comes to mixing cell phone use and driving, Despain said. Virtually everyone knows it is a dangerous combination.
“Very rarely can we hear the excuse of ‘Well, I didn’t know,’” Despain said.
Law enforcement frequently responds to accidents that could have been avoided had the responsible parties been paying attention and not been distracted in some way.
“Whether it’s picking something up off the floor, eating, being on a cell phone, there’s a lot of different ways to be distracted while you’re driving,” Despain said.
That is the whole impetus behind the Heads Up Thumbs Up campaign, he said. Drivers need to be completely focused on what they are doing: eyes up, hands on the wheel and with no distractions.
“We believe it stops accidents and saves lives ultimately,” Despain said. “We’ve seen the extremes of distracted driving with people actually being killed due to distracted driving. We feel it’s very worthwhile.”
According to the statistics provided by the Head Up Thumbs Up website, over 3,000 people died in distracted-driving accidents in both 2011 and 2012, and there were over 387,000 people injured in distracted-driving crashes in 2011 and over 400,000 in 2012. Of the drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes, 11 percent were reported as distracted.
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