Texting and Driving Crackdown Continues

For the next week cops are keeping a watchful eye on drivers and their smartphones.

It’s tempting to send a message or Tweet with your smartphone while sitting at stoplights, or glance at a text during a drive on the highway. But it’s also illegal in Massachusetts to do so while behind the wheel, and for the next week, State Police are beefing up their patrols to make sure drivers are obeying the rules.

Through June 28, officers will be “redoubling their efforts” and citing drivers that are nabbed with their phones in their hands while operating a vehicle.

“Massachusetts drivers should understand that this initiative is not focused on revenue enhancement—the goal of the operation is to educate the public, support the media campaign, and save lives,” said Lieutenant Stephen Walsh, commander of the State Police Andover Barracks and the Operational Officer of the initiative. “Unfortunately, many motorists will not comply with the laws focused on distracted driving without the very real threat of penalties.”

Last summer, officials announced that they received a $275,000 in grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to fund enforcement efforts to make sure drivers are complying with the Massachusetts Safe Driving Law, which was passed in 2010. The law bans drivers from sending, typing, or reading electronic messages using handheld devices while driving. Drivers face a $100 fine for the first offense, and up to $500 for repeat violations.

This week’s patrolling, which will take place in twelve communities statewide, is a continuation of last year’s blitz “designed to develop enforcement strategies and test the effectiveness of a variety of enforcement techniques.”

Some of the techniques for the pilot program, dubbed “Text With One Hand, Ticket in the Other,” include setting up sting operations, having plainclothes officer staked out at intersections, and placing marked and unmarked vehicles on the roads.

Last year, during the first phases of this particular program, officers issued 2,270 distracted-driving citations. “Drivers take notice and many acknowledge that the observed behavior is dangerous.  Our hope is that they change their behavior permanently, not just during the crackdown,” police said in a statement.