Police warn texting drivers to keep eyes on road

RogPoliceBadgeSome texted, some wore earphones, and one had a computer tablet tied to his steering wheel.

All had one thing in common: a $149 driving while distracted fine issued by the Rogers Police Department.

Rogers Chief Jeff Beahen said police departments received a Toward Zero Deaths testing grant initiative where distracted drivers are specifically targeted.

“Our goal isn’t to punish people for texting, it’s to prevent them from killing or maiming someone,” Beahen said.

And he warned distracted drivers that just because they don’t see police, they should know that police see them. On one single day Friday, April 18, Rogers Police issued at least a dozen texting or driving while distracted citations. In each case, a school bus was used as a decoy on Interstate 94 while a police officer aboard would look down onto unsuspecting drivers.

If the officer saw a violator, a radio call would alert an officer up the road of the offender’s car and license plate number. Even if the offender put the phone down by the time they were pulled over, the officers had enough evidence to issue the citation.

“The reality is these drivers weren’t just typing someone’s phone number. Sometimes 10 to 15 minutes would go by before a squad gets into position,” Beahen said.

He said the statistics are startling: one in every three drivers texts while driving, 25 percent of nationwide serious crashes are attributed to distracted driving, and the average texter driving 70 mph takes their eyes off the road for a quarter mile.

“A lot of things can happen during that time, especially rear-end crashes,” he said.

Beahen added that the sooner people know they are being targeted, the sooner police can help keep the public safe from offenders.

“I think most people know it’s a problem,” he said. “Our initiative is meant to wake up the violators.”