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Archive for Monday, September 19, 2011

Court records show few tickets issued to texting drivers in Lawrence, Douglas County

September 19, 2011

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It’s been more than nine months since Kansas law enforcement officers got the go-ahead to ticket drivers for sending text messages while driving.

But the law has been used sparingly so far in Lawrence and Douglas County, according to court records.

Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and sheriff’s officers have issued tickets in Douglas County District Court to eight drivers this year, and in Lawrence Municipal Court police officers have ticketed 15 drivers under the law.

“It’s a real concern to us. It’s a real danger,” said Sgt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff’s spokesman. “But it’s a tough one to enforce, so I think educating all of those electronic-device users is necessary.”

When the law took effect, state transportation and law enforcement officials touted it as a tool to try to combat the major distraction that leads many drivers to taking their eyes off the road for seconds at a time.

But so far — at least on Douglas County roads and highways — most of the texting tickets were issued after an accident and a driver admitted to sending an electronic message just before or during the crash.

A 16-year-old Lawrence girl, who was not injured, was cited for texting Sept. 10 after she rolled her vehicle on Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.

Before that accident, district court had processed seven tickets under the texting law this year, five of which occurred after crashes, said Jacy Wolfe, who handles traffic issues in the court clerk’s office. Information was not available last week on how many of the 15 texting citations in Lawrence Municipal Court occurred after traffic accidents. City Prosecutor Jerry Little said one person was convicted for violation of a texting law in a recent trial.

The ticket carries a $60 fine and about $100 in court costs.

Lewis said the law is difficult to enforce in rural areas because officers are usually either sitting stationary while monitoring traffic that is moving at a high rate of speed or patrolling on the road themselves while driving around 50 mph — faster than the usual 30 mph in urban areas.

While the law makes sending text, email or instant messages illegal while driving, it allows drivers to read, select or dial numbers so they can place a phone call while driving, making it often difficult for officers to tell the difference, Lewis said.

“It’s not any more difficult than any other laws we enforce,” said KHP Technical Trooper Josh Kellerman, who ticketed a man earlier this year for texting south of Lawrence after an accident. “We’re just trying to be a little more diligent, and we want to make sure 100 percent that it is a violation before we actually stop that vehicle.”

Law enforcement officers also said they hoped education about the issue could help deter drivers from texting or using features on their smartphones before they could face a ticket or, even worse, cause a serious head-on collision. Kellerman said troopers handed out information about the dangers of texting and driving and the law last week at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, for example.

Lewis said he encouraged people to download smartphone applications that can prevent them from sending text messages while they’re driving.

Kellerman said there’s an incorrect perception that it’s a problem only among younger drivers. While he said that it’s a major issue, adults are guilty of it, too. He said troopers while off duty often notice people texting when they are driving because generally people put down their phones when they see a marked police car around, just like when people tend to slow down to the speed limit if they see an officer.

“That’s why we want the troopers enforcing it,” Kellerman said. “We just need to make sure 100 percent it’s a violation before stopping them.”

Lewis said that while the law may be difficult to enforce in some situations, he believes it brings awareness to the problem.

“The law is a very good law,” he said, “because it addresses one of the newest and most common and probably one of the most dangerous distractions that now occupy drivers.”

Comments

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 7 months ago

Remove all doubt about it and make using the telephone while driving illegal (period).

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conservative 2 years, 7 months ago

Ron if your description of your driving is accurate then you are in the minority. More often than seeing people text i see people trying to merge out of the mcdonalds parking lot while digging in their bag for their burger, looking at the cute blonde in the car next to them, looking at a map that is unfolded and covering a significant part of their field of view. I'm not saying that texting while driving isn't hazardous, just that it is the popular complaint of the new age, and ignores the poor driving by many. Stop beating the drum to crucify texters and Go after all forms of inattentive driving.

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Tony Kisner 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow, I was reading this article on my phone while driving on K-10 and almost hit a sign post.

Riveting articles on LJW - online version should be outlawed.

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FlintlockRifle 2 years, 7 months ago

People texting are dumb but not stupid, if you seen a police car seating beside you would you pick up your phone to text?, need to send out unmarked cars. I see people texting all the time when I'm out on the roads but I'm in my pickup without a star on the door

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 7 months ago

conservative: Two points. The devices could be disabled in moving vehicles. The last time I checked, there is no 'inattentive driving' law, at least at the state level. Having to prove 'reckless driving' is a much higher standard. I just wish people would put their full attention to the task at hand, but we are distractable chimps.

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conservative 2 years, 7 months ago

It's a stupid law, it is already covered under inattentive driving ordinances. Start apply that law for texting along with pulling over the holier than thou crowd who aren't texting but are eating, drinking, changing the radio, looking at the passenger while having a conversation..... Oh and thumbs would be used while using mapquest, googlemaps, etc. As far as a chip that turns off cell phone function in a moving car that may be beneficial for some aspects of a phone but not for calling. When that roadrage guy starts driving dangerously you want to be able to call the cops, same thing when your teenage daughter is driving alone and someone starts following her, do you want her to be able to call for help?

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 7 months ago

At least a guy that has had a couple of beers is watching the road, and he or she could loose their DL for a couple of years. But that is ok. Children of MADD moms text so it benefits them.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 7 months ago

"holy_cow (anonymous) says… I think they should put a tiny device in all vehicles that totally disables all cell phone functions." ==== As I understand it, that could be done, but it would be bad for 'biddness.' Cell phones do have some business advantages, for auto repair shops, mortuaries and coffin manufactures.

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somedude20 2 years, 7 months ago

Heck if Lawrence PD wants to write some tickets all they have to do is sit in the St John's parking lot on Kentucky St on a weekday morning and bust all the soccer moms and kids that pay no attention to the flashing school zone 20 mph sign as they speed through the area.

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holy_cow 2 years, 7 months ago

I think they should put a tiny device in all vehicles that totally disables all cell phone functions.

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Jamea CallsHim 2 years, 7 months ago

Okay so texting is hard to catch. We understand that, just pull people over and look at their phone and see if a messege has been sent or received at that time. If they refuse to hand over the phone? automatic guilty and they can go to court and show proof via phone records. But still make them pay the court fee's if they are able to proof their innocence. If your innocent just show the police officer your phone, its simple.

But more importantly; what about the easy traffic stops? Running red lights. I see this every single time I drive. Especially on a green turn arrow. Just because the people in front of you turned does not automatically give you a pass to turn, your light is red, stop and wait for it to turn green. This is something that is very easy to pull someone over for, but I have never seen anyone get pulled over for it. Just poste someone up at the 23rd and Iowa light and save some gas from driving around. You'll get your monthly quota is a day or two.

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Stacy Napier 2 years, 7 months ago

If I ever got stopped I would just say I was getting directions. Then they can't do a thing about it. Quoted from the law itself. Which is a big joke.

The provisions of subsection (b) shall not apply to: (1) A law enforcement officer or emergency service personnel acting within the course and scope of the law enforcement officer's or emergency service personnel's employment; (2) a motor vehicle stopped off the regular traveled portion of the roadway; (3) a person who reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call; (4) a person who receives an emergency, traffic or weather alert message; or (5) a person receiving a message related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle.

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bootlegger 2 years, 7 months ago

So u get pulled over for texting; oh no; ur mistaken officer; i was making a phone call!!!

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Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 7 months ago

"While the law makes sending text, email or instant messages illegal while driving, it allows drivers to read, select or dial numbers so they can place a phone call while driving, making it often difficult for officers to tell the difference, Lewis said."

Sgt. Lewis - Texting has the same distinction as that of being human - the apposable and opposable thumbs. If the action is all thumbs...it is texting.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 7 months ago

"Law enforcement officers also said they hoped education about the issue could help deter drivers from,,,"

Death, paralysis in a wheelchair, and killing others while crashing their cars isn't enough to deter drivers from carelessness in several different ways as it is.

Do law enforcement officers really believe that education is going to help?

No, that's not what they said. They did not say they "believed", instead they said they "hoped".

Sure, I do too.

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