The number of drivers seen holding phones to their ears dropped from 6.8 percent to 3.1 percent after the first two elements of a distracted driving program.
About 5,500 people die and another 450,000 are injured each year in accidents involving distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A federal pilot program begun in Hartford and Syracuse, N.Y., is aimed at curbing the use of cell phones by drivers.
The Hartford program, dubbed Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other, has resulted in nearly 7,000 citations for talking on cell phones and 348 for texting. Connecticut law makes it illegal to use cell phones without hands-free devices while driving with fines of $100 for the first offense, $150 for the second, and $200 for subsequent violations.
The pilot programs in Hartford and Syracuse are designed to measure whether enforcement drives up compliance and drives down distracted-type crashes. Federal officials plan to create a national program to discourage distracted driving.
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May 2, 2011
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