Logan program slashes distracted driving crashes

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LOGAN - Law enforcement in Logan is leading the pack in efforts to put a stop to distracted driving in Utah and across the country.

Lt. Rod Peterson keeps his eyes open for people texting while driving or surfing their phones behind the wheel. It's become second nature to him.

For the past two years, the Logan Police Department has cracked down on distracted driving on Main Street with a focus on cell phone use. It's an effort called, "Stop the Main Distraction."

"I believe that cell phone use has just become an epidemic," Peterson said. "We are so addicted to it, we've just got to pick it up."

The citation for manipulating a cell phone while operating a vehicle is $310. That's a citation you only want to have to get once.

–Logan Police Lt. Rod Peterson

By now, we all know distracted driving can be deadly. With the exception of talking on the phone, texting or manipulating our cell phones while driving is against the law in Utah.

In 2009 there were nine fatal crashes in the Cache Valley, three on Main Street alone, due to distracted driving.

"We decided to do something about that," Peterson said.

The Logan Police Department got a grant from the Utah Highway Safety Office: $25,000 a year for three years to "Stop the Main Distraction."

"We send officers up on Main Street specifically looking for drivers who were manipulating their cell phones," said Peterson. "We would take pictures of them as they were driving."

Officers down the road pulled them over. When they first started two years ago, one in 12 motorists was using a cell phone. Now, it's one in 23.

"The citation for manipulating a cell phone while operating a vehicle is $310," said Peterson. "That's a citation you only want to have to get once."

In addition to the enforcement, officers wanted to let the community know what they were up to. They put up signs to let everybody know distracted driving is not tolerated on Main Street.

"My hat is off to the public because I believe they are recognizing the dangers," said Peterson.

Crashes are down 30 percent since the program started. Officers estimate that saves motorists nearly two-thirds of a million dollars in costs for property damages and personal injuries.

"I don't know who they are, but it is certainly a good feeling to know that there are 30 percent out there that did not get involved in an accident because of our efforts," said Peterson.

Other cities may try the same approach. Peterson has spoken at a safety conference in Florida and will share the Logan success story with other departments here in Utah.

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Jed Boal


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