Contact: Andrew Ammirati
July 11, 2011
State Senators Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington) and Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), the Senate chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, today welcomed a new report by the federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration which reveals that—after a year-long advertising campaign—Hartford-area drivers using hand-held cell phones while driving dropped 57 percent, and drivers who were texting while driving declined 72 percent.
The drop is important for two reasons: In 2009, nearly 5,500 fatalities and another 500,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the NHTSA. And Connecticut just strengthened its own distracted driving laws in 2010, imposing stronger penalties for motorists using a hand-held electronic device for talking or texting.
Beginning October 1, 2010 (Public Act 10-109), Connecticut increased fines for talking or texting while driving: the first offense fine is $100, $150 for the second offense, and $200 for the third and subsequent offenses. The state also eliminated the original exemption for first-time offenders who provided proof of purchase for hand-held devices to the court.
“It’s gratifying to see that when the legislature passes a new law, and we can get the word out about that law, the public responds positively. And in this case, a positive response means increased public safety,” said Sen. Maynard.
“The public hearing on this bill was telling in that the police chiefs, the automobile manufacturers and the criminal justice division were all in favor of it, and no one spoke against the measure. And the vote in the General Assembly was nearly unanimous, with just one ‘no’ vote,” said Sen. Duff. “This NHTSA report tells me that we are really on the right track here in Connecticut trying to increase public safety while cracking down on unsafe and discourteous drivers.”
Connecticut’s cell phone/texting awareness program kicked off on April 8, 2010, when state and federal officials launched the campaign with a press event. NHTSA awarded a $100,000 grant to Connecticut to implement and evaluate demonstration programs that apply a ‘high-visibility enforcement model’ to distracted driving, and the state contributed an additional $100,000. Participating law enforcement agencies were the Connecticut State Police and the Hartford, West Hartford and East Hartford Police Departments.
The Connecticut Highway Safety Office ran the “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” slogan on 19 variable message boards in and around the Hartford area, and it purchased digital billboards on major Hartford interstate highways I-84 and I-91. The billboard message also ran at the Hartford XL Center’s digital billboard and outdoor marquee.
Then, four waves of enforcement took place over the following year: in April, July, and October 2010, and in March-April 2011. Cell phone use observation sites were selected from road segments based on traffic volume estimates.
Click here to read complete NHTSA press release and report.
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