The Augusta Police Department plans to step up its efforts to curb distracted driving in the next few weeks with additional patrols funded by a federal grant.

Deputy Chief Jared Mills said police see a variety of reasons people are distracted when behind the wheel.

“I’ve actually seen people shaving in their vehicles,” he said. “That’s obviously not something you should be doing while you’re driving, because it’s going to be distracting.”

Cellphone use is the most common distraction police officers see, Mills said; and while it’s legal in Maine for those driving passenger vehicles to talk on cellphones while driving, commercial truck drivers must use hands-free phones. It is illegal to text while driving.

Mills said the department recommends that people pull over to the side of the road if they have to do something other than focus on the road, because distracted driving increases their chances of getting into crashes.

The $5,000 federal grant, given by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, will allow the department to pay officers overtime to come in for four-hour blocks to focus solely on looking for distracted drivers, Mills said. It can be hard for officers to spend time on traffic enforcement on their regular patrols when they’re busy handling so many other calls, he said.

Mills said the shifts will be deployed during peak crash times because the goal of the effort is to reduce crashes. He said the department encourages officers to “take a zero-tolerance approach” when conducting these details. The fine for distracted driving is $119.

In 2012, 3,328 people were killed nationwide in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver and 421,000 people were injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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