Feds Stepping Up Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws in Two Cities

The Obama administration today launched what it describes as the first federal push for increased enforcement of distracted driving laws, funding local police crackdowns in two northeastern cities aimed at drivers using hand-held cell phones. 

The law enforcement boost, which begins today in Hartford, Connecticut, and on Saturday in Syracuse, New York, is modeled after similar federally funded projects to curb violations of seat-belt and drunk-driving laws.

“There is no question that high-visibility enforcement combined with effective public advertising works," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief David Strickland said in a statement on the project. "We’ve seen the results first-hand with national campaigns like 'Click It or Ticket' and 'Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest'.”

Both of the pilot cities for the distracted driving crackdown are receiving a $200,000 grant from the U.S. DOT to schedule several periods of stepped-up enforcement throughout the year. Any driver spotted using a hand-held cell phone in either metro area will be pulled over and ticketed, according to the U.S. DOT.

Advertising campaigns highlighting the risk of texting or phoning behind the wheel are also slated for broadcast in Hartford and Syracuse this month.

The new policing push would have no effect on drivers using earpieces with cell phones, despite recent studies showing that hands-free phone use behind the wheel represents a risk equal to hand-held devices and that distracted driving laws targeting only hand-held phone users may produce scant safety benefits.