A recent article by The Associated Press found men are more often the ones caught using cellphones while driving than women.
“Men in Connecticut have consistently gotten more tickets than women for driving while texting or talking on cellphones since the law went into effect six years ago, a review by The Associated Press shows.”
While the he-said-she-said fact is interesting, Branford Police Captain Geoffrey Morgan is quick to comment that cellphone violations issued to any gender are also a means by which the department has honed in on accident reduction.
Analyzing data collected over the same two-week span in a three-year period, Morgan said Branford police have seen a 33 percent reduction in motor vehicle accidents. The trend line indicates that in the past three years, the amount of motor vehicle accidents are decreasing.
“We see by analysis a direct correlation between directed traffic enforcement for distracted driving,” stated Morgan, “and traffic crashes.”
Using hotspot policing, targeting patrol on areas where accidents are expected to occur, Morgan said police see distracted driving as the leading cause of accidents.
Last year Branford deployed the use of its second stealth traffic vehicle, a 2010 Ford Taurus as a way to monitor the roads and distracted drivers incognito. The first stealth vehicle, a Ford Explorer, was put into service almost two years ago.
Branford Police Officer Bryan McGinnis who was interviewed by The Associated Press, usually mans the stealth car. He issued a ticket, according to the article, to New Haven resident Kelly DePalma, 28, who told the reporter that the use of the car with subdued markings to pull her over is like entrapment.
Morgan confesses, “You can’t catch people in talking with regular police cars” but the use of stealth vehicles is not entrapment.
Simply stated, according to the Connecticut’s most recent cellphone laws, “Hand-held cell phones or mobile electronic devices may not be used while operating a motor vehicle in Connecticut.”
Use of a cellphone while driving, Morgan details, includes any and all interactions with your phone. Whether you are holding the phone away from your face and taking on speaker, holding it and using the GPS, or texting on it, you are going to get a ticket in Branford. “It doesn’t need to be up to your ear,” Morgan said, for a ticket to be issued.
Connecticut is one of 11 states that bans use of handheld devises while driving – if you want to use your phone, you’ll have head north to cross state lines to begin gabbing in Massachusetts.
Under the current law, any drivers found in use of cellphone while driving are punishable by a fine of up to $125 for the first offense. According to state law, “It used to be that a first-time violator, other than a school bus driver or a driver under age 18, must be suspended if the person presents proof of having acquired a hands-free accessory for the phone before the fine is imposed.” Morgan said that is not the case today. The fines have been increased and there’s no more first-time forgiveness.
According to Hands-Free Info, “As of July 1, 2011, violators can pay are $125 (first offense), then $250, then $400.”
Bottom line, Morgan states: “You jut shouldn’t be having any interactions with your phone.”