Cops Going Undercover to Detect Distracted Driving
It is illegal to text while driving here in Georgia, even at red traffic lights. Drivers under the age of 18 are not permitted to use a phone at all while operating a vehicle. That doesn’t stop people from trying to feed their compulsion, however. In 2015, more than 3,470 people were killed and 391,000 people were injured in wrecks caused by distracted driving in the U.S. In Georgia alone, distracted driving was the reason behind 25,215 wrecks. This is compared to only 5,784 in 2006. The numbers keep rising annually, leaving many to blame cell phone use behind the wheel. It used to be that when drivers spotted a police car, the first thing they would do is lay off the gas and glance down at the speedometer. These days, the knee-jerk reaction for many drivers is to quickly and stealthily hide their phones. To catch a driver in the act of texting is not quite as easy as sitting on the side of the road with a radar gun, so law enforcement officials have had to find some creative methods. Police officers have used unmarked cars and have taken to the streets dressed as construction workers and panhandlers in an attempt to catch people off guard. In Marietta, for example, the traffic unit periodically schedules undercover stings to nab distracted drivers. In a recent operation, undercover officers were stationed on foot dressed as construction workers at the corner of Roswell Street and Cobb Parkway — home of the Big Chicken and one of the busiest intersections in Marietta. The disguised officers looked for drivers who were texting or using social media, then a uniformed officer would pull the driver over and issue a citation. Over a two-hour period, 15 people were ticketed. In North Columbus a few weeks ago, a whopping 96 drivers were cited for distracted driving in a three-hour period. This undercover operation took place around Bradley Park Drive and Whitesville Road. The Columbus Police Department has seen a lot of accidents caused by drivers wandering off into the next lane and into oncoming traffic because they looked down at their phones for only a few seconds. At 55 mph, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in about five seconds and driving while texting is like doing that blindfolded. Distracted driving is not limited to texting, however. Officers have seen people eating, working on their laptop, and putting on make-up while behind the wheel. This tactic is proving to be effective, and Georgia police will continue to deploy officers in this way. While it may seem unfair, this kind of “sneak attack” is for the safety of everyone on the road, including construction workers and pedestrians. Driving takes skill, judgment, coordination, perception, and more. Anything that distracts from that primary task should be avoided.