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May 28, 2013
Tractor trailer drivers in New Kent put 'Phone Down, Just Drive'

New Kent County, Virginia – DRIVE SMART Virginia and the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office have just completed phase two of Phone Down. Just Drive an education and enforcement project geared toward reducing the number of distracted truck and bus drivers on Interstate 64 in New Kent County, VA. Preliminary results show fewer than 5% of truck drivers are using a hand held phone while driving.

Phone Down. Just Drive Was funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as part of a national pilot program that will study the effectiveness of an enforcement and education campaign targeted toward distracted driving with truck and bus drivers. A hand held cell phone ban for commercial drivers in the U.S. took effect January 3, 2012.

In an effort to educate truck and bus drivers about the enforcement, DRIVE SMART Virginia has purchased billboard space along Interstate 64, Interstate 95 and Interstate 295. VDOT has also authorized the use of variable messaging signs on east and westbound I-64 prior to the enforcement area. CB radios within the New Kent County area of Interstate 64 also help alert commercial drivers to the campaign and the special enforcement. Outreach workers are also stationed at rest areas in the project area to educate truck and bus drivers about the campaign.

“The goal of this project is to change behavior, just like Click It or Ticket,” said Janet Brooking, Executive Director of DRIVE SMART Virginia. “Studies show that the most impactful way to affect change is through strong enforcement and education.”

The New Kent Sheriff’s Office is using dedicated motor carrier enforcement officers to spot offenders and issue violations. Deputies are spotting violators by patrolling Interstate 64 in New Kent County in unmarked SUV’s. Deputies pull alongside trucks and observe drivers first hand.

“If they spot a truck or bus driver with a phone in their hand, they are going to make that stop,” said New Kent Sheriff F.W. Howard Jr. “We issued more than 120 handheld citations over the four weeks of targeted enforcement.” We cited 247 for seat belt violations, 33 logbook violations, 46 medical card violations, 28 for using earphones while driving, 51 for defective equipment, 4 driving suspended, 2 drive CMV while disqualified, 3 follow too close, 15 registration issues, 5 reckless driving, 7 fail to have emergency equipment, 11 inspection issues, 6 fail to secure load, 5 no valid OL and 36 other traffic violations. In all we issued over 620 summonses and apprehended 3 wanted subjects.

“Our goal throughout this campaign is for 100% compliance,” Brooking said. “Based upon our outreach, we know that truck drivers overwhelmingly support this effort.”

The Phone Down. Just Drive. campaign ended May 17.

For more information, contact Rob Richardson, Public Relations and Outreach Manager at DRIVE SMART Virginia, 804-929-2988. At the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office contact Lt. Lee S. Bailey. 804-966-9560.