U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $900,000 for Delaware Anti-Distraction Pilot Project

To coinciding with grants, U.S. DOT also releases comprehensive blueprint for ending distracted driving nationwide

Dover-  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) will receive $900,000 in federal support to expand the Department’s “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other.” pilot enforcement campaign to reduce distracted driving.

“We thank Secretary LaHood for personally coming to Delaware to announce this grant.  We will use this money to implement a campaign to encourage motorists to put their cell phones down while driving,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  “By raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, we help prevent needless crashes and keep Delaware’s roads safer.  Safer roads mean people get to jobs, schools, and businesses without delay and without injury.”

DOT is providing Delaware with a total of about $900,000 in federal support for a pilot program that will examine whether increased police enforcement coupled with paid media and news media coverage can significantly reduce distracted driving over a widespread area.

OHS is planning to use $300,000 for three 2 week waves of enforcement for the “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” campaign with the first wave to run September 18 to October 1, 2012 followed by April 9-22, 2013 and June 4-17, 2013 and will include statewide enforcement in all three counties and will include every police department in the state.  Another $400,000 will be allocated towards paid media that will accompany the enforcement efforts and $200,000 toward evaluation of the demonstration project.

“This dedicated enforcement effort coupled with public education and program evaluation illustrates the seriousness in which we view distracted driving. For those who still insist on texting and talking on their cell phone this grant will go a long way to allow them to also talk to one of Delaware’s finest,” said Lewis D. Schiliro, Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Delaware is one of only 2 states that have been selected to receive federal grants for “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” pilot project.  This multi-market effort will mirror the approach used in smaller-scale demonstration projects completed in 2011 in Hartford, CT, and Syracuse, NY.  The 2011 pilot projects found dramatic declines in distracted driving in the two communities tested—with texting dropping 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse.

“We congratulate Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety and Secretary LaHood for bringing this important effort to our state,” says Jim Lardear, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “AAA knows that it is simply not enough to just pass a law; good laws must go hand in hand with visible, committed enforcement and broad public awareness campaigns.  We continue to urge drivers to avoid all forms of distraction behind the wheel.”

Delaware law enforcement has issued over 10,000 cell phone citations since the cell phone law went into effect in Delaware on January 2, 2011.  In 2010, cell phone distraction was a contributing factor in 199 crashes and in 139 crashes in 2011. Through May of this year, cell phone distractions caused 47 crashes. Texting caused 26 crashes in 2010, 14 crashes in 2011 and 7 crashes through May of this year.

Delaware cell phone law bans texting while driving as well as bans the use of hand-held cell phones.  Drivers are required to utilize hands-free technology in order to use a cell phone while driving.   It also bans the use of pagers, blackberry’s, PDA’s, laptops, games, or the use of any other electronic device by someone while driving. If you have to make a call, pull over to a safe place to use your cell phone or use a hands free device like a blue tooth.

If a police officer observes you using a handheld device while driving they can pull you over and give you a $106 fine for your first offense.  If you get caught again penalties increase and can go up to $300.  Violations do not incur points on your driver’s license.

Some exceptions to the law include the activation or deactivation of hands free equipment because not all cell phones are voice activated. Thus, drivers may pick up the phone to dial, then put it down and use hands free equipment to communicate.  Another exception allows a person to use a hand held cell phone to call authorities to report a fire, road hazard, traffic crash, reckless driver or any other unsafe road conditions.  Also exempt are those business or government employees who use a 2-way radio that is mounted or attached to their vehicle to communicate with dispatch or other employees as a part of their official work duties.

For more information about the Office of Highway Safety and the ““Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” pilot project please visit us online at www.ohs.delaware.gov, follow us on Twitter @DEHighwaySafe, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArriveAliveDE or subscribe to OHS YouTube channel DelawareOHS.


Third Wave of Respect Your Ride Motorcycle Enforcement to Start June 1st

Dover-  The Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) and law enforcement agencies statewide will begin the third wave of enforcement on June 1st for the Respect Your Ride motorcycle safety campaign.  Throughout the next wave of enforcement Bethany Beach Police, Dewey Beach Police, Delaware State Police, Dover Police, Newark Police, New Castle County Police, Rehoboth Beach Police will conduct patrols on high crash roadways and will cite violators of the state’s motorcycle safety laws.  They will be paying particular attention to speeding and impaired motorcyclists.

This wave comes after two successive motorcycle crash fatalities on May 18th & 19th.  The first crash involved a motorcyclist driving on a suspended licens and fictitious Delaware registration.  He passed another vehicle on a double yellow line while in a curve, and struck a pedestrian crossing the street.  The impact killed the pedestrian.  The second motorcyclist failed to negotiate a curve and crashed in the roadway and was killed.  Alcohol is considered a factor in the crash.

As the weather warms up, and more motorcyclists are on the roads, all drivers should be vigilant about sharing the road with motorcyclists.  They are easy to miss in a vehicle’s blind spot.  Always look twice before changing lanes or making turns at intersections.

Motorcycle riders can also go to www.MotorcyclesafetyDE.org, to find information about the proper tools and training to make them the safest rider they can be.  Any person who operates a motorcycle, or other 2-wheeled motor driven vehicle, must have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement before taking to the road.  To obtain the endorsement a person must pass a written exam and road skills tests or complete an approved motorcycle rider education program.

OHS is offering the following safety tips for both motorists and motorcycle operators:

Motorcyclists

  • Follow posted speed limits and keep all wheels on the ground at all times
  • Do not try to share a lane with a vehicle, stay in your own
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;
  • Never drink and ride
  • Watch out for loose sand, gravel, debris, and uneven and textured surfaces
  • Do not pass on the shoulder
  • Suit up for Safety – wear not only a helmet, but also appropriate eye gear, long sleeves, over the ankle boots and reflective material when riding at night
  • Keep your skills up to date by signing up for a DMV Motorcycle Training Course, either beginner or advanced

Motorists:

  • Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;
  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width;
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;
  • Allow more following distance, three or four sec­onds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emer­gency; never tailgate.

For more information about the Respect Your Ride campaign visit http://ohs.delaware.gov/services/motorcycle.shtml or visit us on Facebook at ArriveAliveDE.  For more information about motorcycle endorsement and motorcycle rider education program visit http://www.dmv.de.gov/services/driver_services/drivers_license/dr_lic_motorcycle.shtml.