Police post photos of texting drivers

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ST. GEORGE — St. George police are taking pictures of texting drivers in an effort to reduce accidents involving distracted driving.

After a 12-year trend that has cut Utah traffic fatalities in half, Utah roads did not get any safer this year.

"We always want to have fewer numbers than the year before," said Robert Hull, UDOT director or traffic and safety.

In 2012, Utah had 217 traffic fatalities, and this year the numbers are about the same so far. But the numbers are still the lowest in more than a half a century.

"We need to continue to really strive and work harder on all fronts to push those numbers down even further," Hull said.

As part of the "Heads up, Thumbs up" educational campaign, officers in St. George park at different locations and take pictures of texting drivers as they pass by.

"It's actually been easy to get these pictures. It's far too common," said Sgt. Sam Despain of the St. George Police Department. "We always see people doing things other than paying attention to their driving."

Police then post the pictures on their Facebook page with details, like "manipulating the phone for at least 4 to 6 seconds, passing us at 35 miles per hour. That is about 210 feet traveled."

Another officer then pulls over the driver and gives them a warning. Police say tickets are next.

So far officers have posted nine pictures on their Facebook page, with a "Heads up, Thumbs up" logo over the faces.

The campaign aims to save lives. It came in part after a man was killed by a texting driver last March.


"This is really about safety, about making people aware that there are tragic consequences to just looking at a cell phone," Despain said.

Reaction to the Facebook posts is mixed. One person posted, "If my family saw my picture on this post, they would kill me! I will put my phone down, mom."

Another wrote, "Have your officers ever taken their eyes off the road 'for just a second' to type plate numbers into (a computer)?"

St. George got the idea for the program from Logan after the city cut crashes on Main Street by 30 percent.


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Mary Richards and Jed Boal


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