BENNINGTON — State and local police have announced that they will focus enforcement efforts on the state’s distracted driving laws from Thursday through Sunday, raising awareness about the dangers — and legal implications — of using cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving.
The effort is part of the National Distracted Driving Enforcement Campaign-Connect to Disconnect (C2D), in observance of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the National Highway Safety Transit Administration, nationwide between 2012-2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
In 2017 alone, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. This means that nearly one-tenth of all fatal crashes that year were reported as distraction-affected.
According to the Vermont State Police, an analysis by the AAA Foundation of 2009-2012 data found that while more than 80 percent of drivers believed it was completely unacceptable for a motorist to text behind the wheel; more than a third of those same drivers admitted to reading text messages while operating a passenger motor vehicle themselves.
In Vermont from 2013 to 2017, 957 motor vehicle crashes were caused by a distracted driver, the VSP said, noting that it is against the law for anyone to text and drive.
In addition, hand-held use of an electronic device is against the law. This includes when a motorist is stopped in traffic; for example, when stopped at a red light.
Bennington police advise that the motoring public will see increase traffic enforcement throughout the town, especially in the downtown and Northside Drive areas.
The use of a cell phone while driving carries a $162 fine and two points on the driver’s license, while texting carries a $230 fine and five points.