Crackdown Scheduled To Go Through Tuesday

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Police are cracking down on motorists who text or use a hand-held cellphone while driving.

Authorities call it “high-visibility enforcement’‘ intended to call attention to a law that took effect Oct. 1. It allows reporting of distracted driving offenses to insurance companies and increases fines for texting and using hand-held phones while driving.

Officials say the crackdown is scheduled through Tuesday.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said unfortunately, enforcement has not had much of an impact on curbing texting while driving.

“And it’s showing people and convincing them to voluntarily comply,” he told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

The chief said that tactic was what finally convinced drivers to use their seatbelts.

The legislature first enacted a law in 2005 banning the use of cell phones without a hands-free device. Top lawmakers have said they were dismayed to see motorists still texting and driving or talking on a hand-held cellphone without a hands-free device.

Fines are now $150 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

The new law requires police to collect more information from people they pull over.

Kulhawik said he doesn’t think that requiring more information from drivers detracts from the officers’ job of enforcement.

But he said it remains to be seen if the new law will trigger a perception of racial profiling.

“The law is brand new. Oct. 1 it went into effect so I don’t have a lot of data to look at to see if it’s had an impact yet. I have not heard that as a concern among the officers so far,” Kulhawik told Schenidau.

Other law enforcement officials are more concerned about being accused of racial profiling.

“I think the concern among the police officers is there’s a sense that they’re being prejudged that they’re doing this and the law requires officers to hand a complaint form to the operators of motor vehicles at the conclusion of a motor vehicle stop,” Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara told Schneidau.

He said many officers already feel their integrity is in question for simply conducting a stop.

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