(POOLER) One of the fastest growing hazards on the highways is distracted driving. Virtually everyone who drives has a story about a distracted driver. Law enforcement is putting a new spin on an old tactic to catch people engaged in this potentially deadly behavior while behind the wheel. The Pooler Police Department reports success with adding distracted driver checkpoints to their arsenal for compliance to traffic laws. Distracted drivers have been around since people moved from horseback to the horsepower of an automobile. But in the 21st century, the distracted driving numbers have exploded with the rise of the smart phone. Powell Harrelson, Law Enforcement Liaison with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office says drivers who aren’t focused on the road have moved way up on the list of unsafe driving habits in the Peach State. “In Georgia now, our two highest priorities are DUI’s and distracted driving.” said Harrelson.
While texting and driving is one of the main distractions for drivers, it’s not the only one. ” Distracted driving doesn’t only cover a cell phone, anything that’s going on in the vehicle that can distract you. Messin’ with the radio, eatin’, um, messing with a child in the car, anything that can distract you away from what you’re supposed to be payin’ attention to, which is the road could be considered distracted driving in the State of Georgia and you could be cited for it.” Harrelson said.
Checkpoints are now being used to catch distracted drivers, a tactic once reserved for finding impaired drivers, but unlike a DUI checkpoint, distracted drivers won’t see the blue lights until it’s too late. The Pooler Police Department is one of the law enforcement agencies in Chatham County using the checkpoints for distracted drivers. Corporal Mike Sword with Pooler PD explains how the random road check for distracted drivers works. ” An unmarked spotter sets up at an intersection. Marked patrol cars are nearby. The spotter, not only id’s the distracted driver, they also take a photograph of the driver engaged in the distracting behavior or infraction.” Sword said, adding that young drivers have a big problem putting their phones down while driving. “It’s huge. It’s, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, it has become a absolute nuisance with this distracted driving stuff.” said Sword. But older drivers have their own set of trouble with distracted driving, especially when trying to use smart phones behind the wheel, especially when trying to activate functions they’re not familiar with. Harrelson says even the shortest texts or distractions can have terrible consequences. ” I can show you case after case of people who only sent a one word text and get in a crash and cause a fatality or become a fatality. It’s not worth picking up that cell phone.” Harrelson said, adding that people in Georgia who have yet to see the distracted driving checkpoints, will eventually encounter them. ” It will be coming to a city near you soon.” Harrelson said with a laugh. Both Pooler and SCMPD are using distracted driver checkpoints. Both departments report success with them. Harrelson says more departments across Georgia will soon follow suit.