The Delaware Office of Highway Safety and local law enforcement agencies kicked off a pilot enforcement program aimed at reducing hand-held cellphone use and texting by motorists in the state.
The “Phone in One Hand; Ticket in the Other” pilot program will run statewide through Nov. 20. It is the first of two state programs that will assess whether increased police enforcement paired with advertising and news coverage can significantly reduce texting and cellphone use behind the wheel. California, the second state, is due to launch the program, but it will only take place in a specific region near Sacramento that comprises eight counties and 3.8 million residents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation in June announced $2.4 million in federal support for these programs to help strengthen driving distraction in both states. The initiative is part of a larger blueprint plan the DOT and Secretary Ray LaHood have spearheaded for the last three years.
“Last year, 147 crashes were due to distracted driving. Our new dedicated enforcement campaign will offer a tough lesson to any driver caught paying attention to their phones instead of the road,” said Delaware Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Lewis Schiliro in June during a press conference.
From 2010 to 2011, the DOT supported similar pilot enforcement and media efforts in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y. Those two programs resulted in dramatic declines in distracted driving, according to the department. Texting by motorists dropped 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse.
Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. Twelve of these laws were enacted in 2010. That same year, at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, according to the DOT, accounting for approximately one in every 10 fatalities on the nation’s roadways.