Program To Dissuade Distracted Driving May Come To Erie County

10:44 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Despite increased awareness, more than 15 people are killed, and more than 1,200 people are injured in distracted driving accidents each day in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Monroe County, the Sheriff's Department is trying a new initiative to cut down on the problem, but it requires drivers to "tattle" on their fellow motorists.

Still, Erie County's Sheriff thinks enough of it, that he'd like to try it here.

If you have spent any time on the road, you have no doubt seen someone paying more attention to their phone than their driving.

However, outside of muttering to yourself that you wish there was a cop around, there has not been much for concerned motorists to do.

Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn wants motorists to report incidents of distracted driving, by visiting his department's website and filling out a form detailing the type of distracted driving witnessed, the location, a description of the driver, their car and their license plate number.

No one will be issued a ticket, because the infraction would have had to occur in the presence of a deputy.

But the owner of the vehicle reported to have been involved in distracted driving will get a letter from O'Flynn.

"It's a gentle reminder to people, when they get a note from the Sheriff's office in the mail, that says you were observed and it's a dangerous behavior, and that they really shouldn't be doing it," said O'Flynn.

"I like it," said Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard. "I'd love to see us do the same thing. It sounds like a great program... and we'll be in contact with his office about replicating it here."

Howard said he could see the program making a difference as long as people didn't try to write a plate number and vehicle description down while they were driving, because then they themselves would be engaged in distracted driving.

"I'm sure that neither Sheriff O'Flynn nor I would encourage them to do something dangerous. Some people have better memories than others but I know I can remember a plate number long enough to find a safe place and a safe time to write it down unless you get interrupted by something else," he said.

Howard also believes a letter sent to the owner of a vehicle could especially dissuade younger people from engaging in distracted driving, especially if their mother or father who might be the actual owner of a vehicle got to the mailbox first

"Or, if it's one spouse that opens it... they may confront the other spouse and say 'hey you better watch it because someone is watching for you'."

With a chance that the most habitual distracted drivers will eventually get reported by someone, Howard believes the 50 cents spent to mail them a letter advising them to change their behavior is well worth it. Even if it makes them change that behavior for only a day or two, it could be enough time to save a life.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dooley O'Rourke. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2


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