April is national Distracted Driving Awareness month and from April 10 to 15, Delaware will join law enforcement across the nation to crack down on handheld cell phone use and/or texting by motorists using a combination of traditional and innovative strategies. This effort is a part of the national U Drive. U Text. U Pay high-visibility enforcement campaign that combines intense enforcement of anti-texting laws with advertising and media outreach to let people know about the enforcement and convince them to obey the law.
Delaware’s hands free cell phone law has been in effect since 2011 and bans all drivers from using hand held cell phones, pagers, PDAs, blackberrys, laptops, games or portable computers while driving. Drivers are not allowed to talk without using a hands-free device, read, write or send text messages, email or use the Internet while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers caught using a hand-held device will be fined roughly $106 ($50 base fine with fees) for their first offense, with subsequent penalties reaching up to $350 with fees. Since the law went into effect there have been over 35,000 cell phone citations issued statewide to-date. Delaware became the 30th State in the nation to have a texting ban, and the 8th to also ban the use of hand held cell phones. No State completely bans the use of cell phones altogether.
Delaware law enforcement will also expand their crack down on handheld cell phone use to April 23-27. Participating agencies include Camden PD, Delaware City PD, Dover PD, Georgetown PD, Middletown PD, Milford PD, Millsboro PD, New Castle County PD, Newark PD, Wilmington PD, Wyoming PD, and Delaware State Police. Delaware law enforcement have issued over 54,600 cell phone tickets since the law went into effect on January 2, 2011. Enforcement will be coupled with paid media ads and awareness activities.
The trauma department at Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children will be offering a free distracted driving event on April 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Visitors can see the consequences of distracted driving first hand when they try to navigate the distracted driving simulator. Individuals can also take the pledge to not drive distracted and receive a free gift. Visitors will also have the opportunity to hear from a local family about how a distracted driver took the life of their daughter just before her upcoming wedding.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report looking at crash data involving thousands of teen drivers. The report finds that distracted driving contributes to 58% of teen driver vehicle crashes nationally and shows that distracted driving is more than just texting. It also highlights the importance of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws and passenger restrictions for young drivers.
“Texting and driving requires motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving. It greatly enhances the likelihood of crashing and puts everyone on the road at risk,” said Jana Simpler, director for the Delaware Office of Highway Safety. For more information, drivers are encouraged to visit http://www.ohs.delaware.gov/distracted.shtml.