Nearly 100 citations issued in distracted driving campaign

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published April 19, 2016

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MACOMB COUNTY — The recent distracted driving enforcement campaign is being hailed a success by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the campaign, which took place in various parts of the county April 8-13, resulted in 181 drivers being pulled over and 93 citations being issued.

“This (campaign) was about enforcement and education,” Wickersham said. “Not every traffic stop resulted in a ticket being issued; everyone received a warning.”

The warning was about the dangers of distracted driving, specifically using a cellphone and texting while behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that it reports has held steady since 2010.

The percentage of drivers text messaging or visibly manipu­lating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014, the NHTSA reports, and since 2007, young drivers ages 16 to 24 have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. The NHTSA says this age group has the largest proportion of driv­ers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.

The administration also reports that in 2014 (the most recent data available), 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Macomb County received a grant to step up patrols from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning as part of April being designated as National Distracted Driver Awareness Month.

Wickersham said the grant, which is similar to drunken driving and seat belt enforcement campaigns, allowed his office to supplement its regular police patrols to focus on distracted driving to bring attention to the problem.

He said deputies focused their enforcement efforts on locations that have historically had a high number of crashes. Deputies targeted M-59 (Hall Road) between Romeo Plank and Garfield.

The deputies utilized a “spotter” and identified drivers that were texting while driving.  Other deputies, in marked patrol cars, then stopped the motorists and either gave warnings or issued citations when appropriate.

Wickersham said this first-ever enforcement campaign could be considered a success even if just one driver was deterred from breaking this statewide law.

“This is the first year we put this together, so we we have nothing to compare (the numbers) to, but if we had stayed out longer, the numbers would have been much higher,” he said. “Our deputies are always looking for distracted drivers and those drivers not following the rules on a daily basis.”

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