Local News

Troopers crack down on texting and driving

Posted July 22, 2011 1:30 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2011 6:50 p.m. EDT

— To catch people texting while driving on the interstate, North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers need to blend in, so they patrol in unmarked cars.

WRAL News spent a day patrolling with troopers along Interstate 95 in Harnett County as part of “Operation Distracted Driver,” which seeks to stop texting and driving. Within the first hour, troopers had their first violator.

The driver said she was just ending a phone call, but that’s not what troopers saw.

“I pulled up beside her and observed her with the phone in her hand for a full minute, texting on the phone,” 1st Sgt. Tracy Coleman said.

The driver was given a ticket and owes a $100 fine and $172 in court costs.

Troopers say texting drivers are six times more likely to be involved in a crash.

“That split second they’re looking down, anything can happen,” Coleman said.

Troopers say they look for swerving and people turning their heads away from the road. Then, troopers pull up right next to the vehicle to see what the driver is doing.

Trooper Steven Spivey spotted one driver looking down at her phone for some time, so he pulled her over. Since the trooper did not actually see her typing, she got a warning.

The driver told troopers that she was just looking up a phone number. Troopers say drivers always have an excuse.

“People will tell you they’re using their phone to dial a number or call a friend or family member,” Spivey said.

During WRAL News’s ride along with troopers, one driver was ticketed.

The Highway patrol plans to do another "Operation Distracted Driver" at the end of August.

In 2010, troopers issued 651 tickets to people for texting while driving. Of that, nearly 250 tickets were given to people over the age of 30. In 2011, troopers so far have issued 472 tickets for texting while driving.