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Hartford Area Police Crack Down on Cell Phone Use While Driving
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Hartford area commuters who use their cell phones while driving will soon be subjected to greater scrutiny by local and state police.  WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was at the State Capitol Thursday to announce federal funding that will allow state police and officers in Hartford, West Hartford, and East Hartford to strictly enforce the state’s distracted driving laws.

“We believe this is the way that we will get cell phones out of people’s ears and Blackberries out of their hand, save a lot of injuries, save a lot of lives. “

The $200,000 in federal money is matched by $100,000 from the state. It will pay for overtime costs to have police officers whose only job will be enforcing handheld cell phone laws.  That stepped-up enforcement will occur during four separate weeks over the course of the next year.  The money will also help pay for public safety announcements.

The Hartford area is one of two federally-funded pilot programs that hope to test whether enforcement and awareness of the state’s cell phone laws can change driver behavior.  Connecticut already bans driving while using handheld electronic devices.  Hartford Police Lt. Robert Allen told the capitol audience that they’re now on notice.

“If you’re in the habit of talking on the phone or texting while driving through the greater Hartford area, consider yourself warned. You will be caught, law enforcement will not be giving you a warning, no excuses no exceptions. If you have a phone in one hand you’ll have a ticket in the other.”
 
The first week of enhanced enforcement begins April 10.

For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.