The federal government will escalate efforts to stop motorists from texting or talking on mobile phones, funding pilot programs to ticket distracted drivers in New York and Connecticut and urging auto makers to rethink hands-free communications systems in cars, reports the Wall Street Journal. Year-long distracted driving-enforcement campaigns in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Ct., costing nearly $2.2 million in federal and state money, start today and be modeled after “click it or ticket” campaigns used to prod motorists to use safety belts. The distracted driving crackdown’s slogan: “Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other.”
The pilot programs will include ticketing blitzes and ads highlighting the risks of distracted driving. The goal is to test the effectiveness of tactics that could be used in broader efforts to clamp down on the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel. In New York, driving while using a hand-held phone can result in a $180 ticket. In Connecticut, a cellphone law violation can cost an adult motorist up to $100, plus court costs. In Connecticut, teen drivers are prohibited from using cellphones at all and could face suspension of their licenses and additional costs. The distracted-driving enforcement efforts will include four weeklong waves of ticket writing spread out between now and early March 2011. “The end game is to get cellphones out of [drivers’] hands,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.