You won’t see them until it’s too late. Undercover officers in unmarked cars are looking for distracted drivers in Warren County.
“We wrote 49 citations the first day,” said Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Jimmy Jones of a new initiative to crack down on distracted drivers. “We had numerous texting violations among other things.”
Jones, who leads the local contingent of troopers, said the move comes in hopes of making Warren County roads safer in the wake of a deadly start to 2017 that saw four traffic fatalities in January. The high death toll has prompted safety officials to scramble to figure out how to address the problem.
“We see it when we work wrecks and ask the driver why he ran off the road,” Jones said. “They may claim a dog ran out in front of them making them swerve but I suspect there is often more to it than what they are saying. I think texting and distracted driving factors into a lot of accidents.”
Jones said the plan, which was initiated last week and led to the numerous citations, is to have officers conduct surveillance from unmarked vehicles while dressed as civilians.
“You won’t be able to tell when you’re being passing by an officer,” Jones warned. “That’s another reason why you need to stay off the cellphone while you’re driving.”
The court cost and fine for distracted driving is $60. Jones noted a person doesn’t have to be texting to be in violation of the law.
“Anything that distracts the driver from the road can cause a safety issue,” said Jones, noting things like programming a GPS or playing Pokémon GO while behind the wheel is a violation of the law and will end in a citation if one of the undercover officers sees it.
The THP is assisted in the undercover initiative by McMinnville Police Department and Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
“It won’t just be in the city where our undercover officers are watching,” Jones said. “We have plans to work throughout the county.”
Jones said the best rule of thumb is to set the phone down before you get behind the wheel and leave it alone until you arrive at your destination.
Each day in the United States, over 9 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
Source: National Highway Traffic