Fairfax County, VA launches new distracted driving campaign

It’s been a year since the state of Virginia has banned texting while driving, but there doesn’t seem to be much progress among drivers to stop their dangerous habit.  To raise awareness on the issue, the Fairfax County Police Department is launching a campaign aimed at keeping motorists from texting while driving.

Since the beginning of the year, the Fairfax County Police Department has issue only 16 citations for texting while driving, a low number that may be explained by the difficulties to enforce the law.  As hand-held use of a cell phone is still permitted, it is difficult for a police officer to make the different between dialing and texting.  Another factor is that the law is of secondary enforcement, meaning police can only enforce the law if they also witness some other infraction first.  Finally, the low fine – a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses – surely doesn’t help.

“It’s a very difficult law for us to enforce because there are loopholes in that law,” said Capt. Susan Culin, commander of the county police’s traffic division.

The new campaign will combine public education and awareness with strict enforcement techniques. Police officers will be posted on high volume roads and where a high number of crashes occur.  Strategies include using trucks and SUVs that sit up higher so the officer has a better view to see what a driver is doing inside his car.

“Officers may be positioned in ‘unorthodox’ locations where they’ll be able to best view careless behaviors that take a driver’s focus off of the roadway,” said Culin.

In addition to the increased enforcement effort, a new survey with a focus on texting while driving is being launched.  Police will also distribute a new texting-awareness poster throughout Fairfax County Public Schools as well. 

8 texting bans were proposed during the 2010 General Assembly session; all of them failed to become law.

Source: Fairfax County Police Department Press Release; Businessweek, September 10, 2010

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