Distracted Driver Campaign to Kick Off in Wicomico Co. - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Distracted Driver Campaign to Kick Off in Wicomico Co.

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 SALISBURY, Md.- The Wicomico County Sheriff's Office will be cracking down on distracted drivers as part of a national campaign.

 If you have not done it yourself, you have probably seen it; drivers picking up their cell phones to text or talk behind the wheel. Learning to drive without being distracted was a lesson Chad of Ocean City learned the hard way.

"The moment you look down at your phone, you're off the road," said Chad, who got into a car accident years ago. “ A friend of mine texted me while I'm just going down the road. Before I knew it, ‘whoof,' I was off the side of the road.”

Chad slammed into a telephone pole. Fortunately, he was not injured. As anyone could imagine, it is an experience he never wants to relive again. 

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis tells WBOC texting while driving is a problem that needs greater attention.

 " We see it every day and we are issuing citations every day," Sheriff Lewis said. 

The Sheriff's office will soon launch a high-visibility enforcement campaign that combines intense enforcement of anti-texting laws with advertising and media outreach to let people know about the enforcement and convince them to obey the law.

The effort is part of the national “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign. From April 10th to 15th, Sheriff Lewis and deputies will be out looking for violators.

"We'll have deputies that are solely for the purpose of identifying, apprehending and charging those who are texting and driving and using cell phones while driving," Sheriff Lewis said.

Driving distracted comes with a price. In Maryland, drivers will be hit with a $83 fine for the first offense and $140 for a second offense. The fine for a third offense is $160. 

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated additional 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. This represents a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of fatalities recorded in 2012.

According to a 2014 special article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.

The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute's 2012 “Teen Driver Distraction Study” reports that a quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, and 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.

The "U Drive. U Text. U Pay" campaign is national in scope, and has qualified for and received approximately $8.4 million in grant funding from the U.S. DOT to support this and other efforts designed to fight distracted driving.
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