ST. GEORGE – As part of its Heads Up, Thumbs Up campaign against distracted driving, the St. George Police Department has begun to take photos of distracted drivers as they drive by. Some photos – with faces blocked out by the Heads Up, Thumbs Up logo – have been posted online by the police on its Facebook page.
The action is meant to “bring awareness to the problems associated with distracted driving, to educate specific offenders, and to eventually move toward enforcement of violations,” the St. George Police said in a statement.
Once a traffic violation involving distracted and/or careless driving is observed by officers taking the photos, the offending driver’s vehicle description is given to other officers who then pull them over.
So far no citations are being issued, St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said. “Right now this is an educational campaign,” he said. People are pulled over and warned and then let go. However, the campaign will eventually lead to education through enforcement, and tickets will be issued accordingly.
“There’s a learning curve there,” Despain said. After the educational phase of the campaign ends, he said he hopes people will see texting and driving the same way they do drinking and driving – you just don’t do it.
The photos posted are also meant to help people understand how common distracted driving really is, he said.
“And that’s just a few of them,” Despain said. So far there are about nine photos on the St. George Police Facebook page of distracted drivers.
Despain said people need to understand that distracted driving and careless driving – which encompasses more than simply texting – are against the law. It is also potentially deadly, as seen in the case of the Henson family last May.
David and Leslee Henson were in an accident triggered by a woman who was texting while driving. David Henson was killed and his wife was severely injured, though has since recovered. The family launched its own distracted driving awareness campaign that acted as a springboard for the police’s Head’s Up, Thumbs Up campaign.
While the police have received a positive reaction to the campaign on Facebook, others, such as St. George News columnist and radio show host Bryan Hyde, consider it a Big Brother move.
“The one-size-fits-all approach is based on the presumption that we don’t know what’s good for us, so we should be forced to do what government says is right,” Hyde said.
He also called it ironic that while the police are tasked with enforcing the anti-distracting driving laws, officer’s themselves are surrounded by numerous devices in their patrol cars, such as radios, computers, and cell phones.
Employees of the City of St. George, police included, are restricted from using their phones while driving as a matter of policy.
Hyde’s column can be read in its entirety here.
“Whether it is a close call that was frightening, a traffic collision resulting in damaged property, or a traffic collision that has serious life changing injuries and/or death,” the St. George police said in the statement, “most people have been witness to or been impacted by drivers who have not been focused on driving.”
- Perspectives: Distracted driving, the nanny state at the local level
- St. George to fight distracted driving after local tragedy; STGnews Videocast
- City launches massive campaign against distracted driving
- Community Action Team public meeting on distracted driving, child safety
- Distracted driver runs light, causes accident
- Southern Utah Driving 101: How to safely navigate roundabouts; STGnews Videocast
- Distracted driver triggers three-car accident, two sent to hospital
- Health Department cautions: Avoid drowsy driving
- Perspectives: The questions we should be asking ourselves as government spies on us
- Analysis of CISPA: Will the government hire Facebook to spy on you?
- Perspectives: MATRIX and Fusion Centers, government’s gatherers and hunters of your information
- Surveillance cameras are nothing new
- The era of wholesale surveillance (OPINION)
- High tech video surveillance in place at local schools
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