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Amherst Crackdown Targets Distracted Drivers

AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) — Sergeant Todd Lang has seen and heard it all in his seventeen years on the force.

“People are eating, reading newspapers,” while driving, he says.  Just today, he says, he pulled over several distracted looking drivers.  “One of their excuses was, they were downloading music.”

That’s an excuse?  Sounds more like a confession.  And while Sgt. Lang and his colleagues understand the conveniences of cell phones, they’re not tolerating use of the devices on their streets, at least not to the point of distraction.

“You can use a cell phone in your vehicle but you have to keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times,” he points out.  Cell phones are completely illegal in Massachusetts, however, for drivers younger than 18.  They’re also illegal in Connecticut for everyone, unless the device is being used hands-free.

Not that distracted driving started with the advent of cell phones.  Man’s best friend can be safety’s worst enemy.  “People with dogs, specifically lap dogs,” Sgt. Lang explains, are a danger.  “They ride with them and they have them out the window, and they’re just not paying attention.”

Amherst Police have been cracking down on distracted drivers since Monday, but the problem is ongoing, says Lang.  “Texting, nowadays, as well as cell phone use – everybody uses it, people of all ages now.”

A National Safety Council study released in 2010 indicates that 28% of all motor vehicle crashes involve drivers talking or texting on cell phones.  Apart from the obvious dangers though, Sgt. Lang says the cost should be enough to be an automatic hang-up.

“The first offense [in Massachusetts] is a $100 fine, and then it increases from there.  Second offense, $200; additional $100 for each offense”.

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