COLUMBUS, Ga. — They are a common occurrence on the roads: distracted drivers. While they are checking text messages, making calls, or mapping out directions, their full attention is not on the road. Police are always paying attention, looking out for distracted drivers.
At the beginning of June, Columbus Police conducted a distracted driving campaign in North Columbus. Officers ticketed nearly 100 people in just under two hours. Each culprit used a cell phone when they were busted by police.
Major J.D. Hawk with the Columbus Police Department says people use phones as an extension of their person or work. Those same phones can take away attention from drivers and possibly put others in danger. He realizes detachment is tough, but he recommends going hands-free or looking into Bluetooth technology.
According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately nine people are killed each day due to distracted driving. More than 1,000 people are injured. In 2015, 42% of high school students reported texting or emailing while driving. Students who reported frequent texting were less likely to wear a seat belt. However, they were more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking or drink and drive by themselves.
Apple’s newest operating system will come with a “Do not disturb while driving” mode. The phone detects when one is driving and turns off all notifications. Users can set an automatic text response to let friends and family know they are behind the wheel.
Now, Columbus Police are considering “Text-a-lyzer” technology. It’s a device that would plug into a phone, bringing up activity that happened in the last 90 seconds. Though the technology is not yet on the market, police say the device could prove advantageous when detecting those who don’t have their full attention behind the wheel.
“There would be a little more accuracy to it,” Maj. Hawk said. “But then again, there are other remedies we could do. We could get search warrants for the phones and things like that. At this present time, in this state, it would take a change in the law for us to use this equipment.”
Those laws could redefine privacy rights for Americans, a touchy subject straddling personal liberties and law. Maj. Hawk says police can pull someone over for distracted driving if they are driving over 70 miles an hour talking on the phone.
Police can also stop drivers who are going well below the speed limit and on the phone. One’s car does not even have to be moving to get pulled over. News 3 has received a lot of feedback on this issue and potentially new technology. Some feel police need the new technology to put an end to potential tragedies. Others are still on the fence, because they believe it is an invasion of privacy.
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