Statesboro and Bulloch County saw a saturation of law enforcement Thursday morning as a “distracted driving awareness initiative” got underway. Troopers, officers and deputies pulled people over for texting, eating and talking on the phone while driving and other infractions.
The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol Post 45 and Statesboro Police Department teamed up to perform the exercise, trying to increase awareness of a growing problem, said Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown.
Troopers, deputies and officers pulled over approximately 155 drivers Thursday morning due to various forms of distracted driving, he said.
The three-and a half hour exercise netted 23 citations and 87 warnings for “driver to exercise due care” violations; two DUI arrests, two drug arrests, 29 citations and 63 warnings for “other” infractions, and one wanted person taken into custody, Brown said.
There will be more drivers stopped in the future, Brown said.
“We will continue to do this for months to come,” he said. “This has become an epidemic. We have had people wreck over arguments in the front seat. It takes just a second to pull over to handle what you need to do.”
The focus on distracted drivers will “continue indefinitely,” he said. “The number of motor vehicle accidents over the past couple of years that have been attributed to distracted driving has increased tremendously. Fatalities as a result of distracted driving accidents have also increased throughout the state of Georgia.”
Georgia State Patrol Post 45 Commander Chris Rodewalt said “Seventy percent of (traffic) fatalities can be related to distracted driving in some manner.”
Anything that takes your attention away from the road is a hazard.
“Fooling with your radio, on the phone or picking something up off the floor” are forms of distracted driving, and the best alternative to doing so is to pull over if you need to focus on something other than the road, he said.
The attention to distracted driving is a multi-agency effort, said Statesboro Police Deputy Chief Rob Bryan.
“A large percentage of accidents are caused by texting and driving,” he said. “With the technology explosion and using electronic devices becoming so prevalent, there is an increase in using those devices while driving.”
Yet, texting isn’t the only form of distracted driving.
“Any activity that takes your attention away from the roadway,” Brown said. “This includes, but is not limited to, eating, brushing your hair, turning to check on children, smoking, talking on the phone, and especially, texting while driving.”
Law enforcement agencies are “pushing hard” to get the message to drivers that it only takes a moment to pull over safely to check on a child, adjust a radio or send a text, Rodewalt said.
The citations issued Thursday were for (failure) of “driver to exercise due care,” and fines for Statesboro municipal court are $162, Bryan said. “The state court fines may vary a little.”
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.