Two communities receive federal funds to crack down on distracted drivers

| Friday, April 09, 2010

Truckers passing through two communities in New York and Connecticut may want to put their hand-held cell phones down to avoid a ticket.

That’s because the U.S. Department of Transportation is kicking off pilot programs in Syracuse, NY, and Hartford, CT. Both communities received $200,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation to be matched by $100,000 in funding from each state that will pay law enforcement personnel to ticket drivers on their cell phones.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Land Line Now on Friday, April 9, that the purpose of these pilot programs is to crack down on “distracted drivers” on their cell phones, smart phone devices or texting.

High-visibility enforcement will begin April 8-17 in Syracuse and April 10-16 in Hartford.

“You can have good laws, and 21 states have already passed some very good laws when it comes to distracted driving and using cell phones and (smart phones) and texting. But unless you have the police that are on the street actually giving people tickets the way that they do for people who don’t use seat belts or the way they do with drunk driving, these laws are really not that effective,” LaHood said.

LaHood said the information gleaned from the enforcement will then be transferred “around the country” and that money requests are already in the works in next year’s DOT budget for some additional grants.

“We think this is the way to really get cell phones, (smart phones) and texting out of automobiles, particularly when people are trying to drive and do these things,” he said.

– By Reed Black, staff writer