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West Hartford Police Begin ‘U Drive. U Text. U Pay’ Campaign

West Hartford Police Officer Mike Coyne waves over a driver on New Britain Avenue who was spotted by another officer down the road. The driver doesn't notice Mike until the last minute, because he was still on the phone. Photo credit: Ronni Newton.

The West Hartford Police will be targeting distracted drivers during the month of April.

West Hartford Police Officer Mike Coyne waves over a driver on New Britain Avenue who was spotted by another officer down the road. The driver doesn't notice Mike until the last minute, because he was still on the phone. Photo credit: Ronni Newton.

During the September 2014 Distracted Driving Enforcement Campaign, West Hartford Police Officer Mike Coyne waves over a driver on New Britain Avenue who was spotted by another officer down the road. The driver doesn’t notice Mike until the last minute, because he was still on the phone. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (file photo)

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Police Department is participating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month” by implementing an anti-texting enforcement project with added patrols focused on distracted driving behavior.

The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign began April 1 and will run through April 30.

“We’re targeting certain areas, but we’re going to hit all over town,” said Captain Jeff Rose, who heads the West Hartford Police Department’s Traffic Division. Rose said that extra patrols will be on all of the busiest roads – Park, South Main, New Britain, South Quaker, Farmington, Boulevard, and others – as well as in the school zones.

“Using a cellphone in a school zone, where children and familes are walking, creates an extra-hazardous situation,” Rose said. “We really want to be promoting driver safety.”

West Hartford Police have added six extra officers per day, and they will be working in shifts – three in the morning and three in the afternoon/evening – during weekdays throughout the entire month of April. A second phase of the campaign will be run from Aug. 3-Aug. 15, Rose said.

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The patrols will use marked and unmarked cruisers, and may use a “spotter” officer to catch drivers and relay that information to other officers stationed down the street.

The additional patrols are being funded through a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The state received a total grant of $2.3 million, and 50 towns and cities throughout the state are participating in the effort in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office.

When West Hartford Police conducted a distracted driving campaign for three weeks during Sept. 2014, they handed out tickets for 584 distracted driving infractions, Rose said.

Fines for violations begin at $150 for a first offense and $300 for a second offense. Fines double in a construction, utility, traffic, or fire safety zone, Rose said.

“Our goal is not only to enforce Connecticut distracted driving laws, we also hope to save lives by deterring this dangerous behavior,” Rose said in a news release about the campaign.

Officer Michael Coyne, who has been involved in the distrated driving enforcement patrol, said, “Texting and driving causes motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving. It puts another person’s life at risk when a motorist drives like that.”

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