Police use photos of drivers as part of anti-texting campaign

An example of the one of the photos of texting drivers taken by St. George Police, St. George, Utah, December 2013 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News

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.”


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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

An example of the one of the photos of texting drivers taken by St. George Police, St. George, Utah, December 2013 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News
An example of the one of the photos of texting drivers taken by St. George Police, St. George, Utah, December 2013 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News


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  • My Evil Twin December 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

    As much publicity as there has been about texting and driving, there is no excuse to not ticket people who continue to do it! Education campaign? Enough already! Officers need to be writing tickets to everybody they find doing this, and no exceptions for any reason!
    If there is something so urgent you need to text about it, pull over and stop, then make your text!

  • Mindie December 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    The whole thing about the police and city workers not being able to use their phones while driving is bull. I have seen multiple cops on their cell phones while they are driving and yes they are in uniform. And on several occasions I have seen officers sway back and forth in lanes because they are on their phones. SO for them they need to practice what they are trying to teach. Because for them to think that they are the law and that it doesn’t apply to them makes me mad. I come from a family where my grandpa was an officer for many many years for Washington county and he always made it a point about safety for our selves and others.

    • My Evil Twin December 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      There really was a time, when law enforcement officers tried to set a GOOD example. I’m afraid those days are long gone though. It is one thing to be speeding without lights and siren when you are trying to pace a violator. It is another to be using cell phones and not using turn signals. Sometimes, if a cop is enroute to certain types of emergency calls, he may not be using lights and siren. But if they are just responding to a routine call, or are “going for donuts,” they need to obey the same laws as anyone else.

  • JOSH DALTON December 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    GOOD! Now lets give them a ticket! Even better take ther license away for a year and fine them $2500! Just like a DUI.

  • JOSH DALTON December 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    There faces should be plastered all over the bookings as well! After they spend a night in jail! We should be able to publicly ridicule these people! They should be charged with public endangerment, reckless driving, etc! People who text and drive should be stoned until they are dead! People who text in general should be stoned until they are dead.

    • MShabazz December 19, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      So would you say the same should be done to cops who use their dashboard computers while driving as well? Or are they excused because they’re above the law?

  • marylou December 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    GET OFF THE PHONE ALREADY!! It’s so selfish.

  • bUB December 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    BS…I should have the right to text and watch movies on my iphone as I drive to work

  • Sandie December 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    It’s good to see that this is happening. I have followed way too many drivers or been behind them as they text someone or try to manipulate their phones and they start swerving or slow down to a crawl. When I bought my phone, I realized that i don’t multitask too well when it comes to driving and talking. Just to answer my phone, I had to get it, unlock it, slide it to answer and then find the speaker button and by that time I was flustered. If my car was a newer one with built in blue tooth, that would have been great. But otherwise, it was too much of a problem while still trying to watch the road.

  • D Hodja December 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Write the tickets! St George drivers need to slow down and pay attention…yes that is you I’m talking about Mommas in the Escalade on your phones with the five kids bouncing around with no seat belts on. A good educational place to start with Southern Utah people might be to explain to them the difference between a privilege and a right because they really are clueless.

  • Truth December 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I wonder what would happen if us “private sector” schmucks had dozens of people, paid with public funds, out every day taking pictures of public employees breaking the law? Maybe we could post the pictures to Facebook and include as much information about the incident as possible. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    • MShabazz December 19, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Let’s do it! I like your thinking. I’ve got a smart phone with a great camera and zoom.

  • what the hey?! December 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

    This has me bugged. I don’t want someone thinking that I’m smsing when I’m not & takinga picture of me without my permission. You see I don’t wear a watch & I check my cell for the tike. I typically check it when I know my surroundings are clear

    • My Evil Twin December 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

      You don’t have a clock in your car? I don’t buy what you are saying here. But who knows, maybe a judge will buy it. You won’t know until you try to use it for a defense.

  • lori January 21, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Something does need to be done and awareness made to drivers. Stoning them is not the answer. The law is the law and although I think its a gone a little too far with tickets being issued to people with out an officer actually seeing them text and drive. Some people do use GPS, turn on your ipod attached to the car or check the time because it is more accurate time. How about lets just not text and drive. With the hype about it and with people being able to call a police officer and tell him to track some one down hours later and give them a ticket, im tempted to attach a video camera in my car to have footage to protect my innocence. Its gotten a little out of control. We went many years when we didn’t have cell phones so there is no reason anyone can’t wait until they stop to make a phone call. I do recall a lot of accidents happening before cell phones due to someone switching cassette tapes or cd’s too. Distracted driving is not new. Although im sure that it is more out of control now with not only texting but social media on the phones. Lets hope everyone takes precautions and drives safe so that everyone’s family members arrive home safely.

  • Betty January 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I love the lady that rides around in a minivan with STUDENT DRIVER in big yellow letters on the back window. I have seen her driving with her teen in the front passenger seat and she’s just staring at her phone. Not sure if she’s texting but she certainly is setting a poor example to her son! Dear Police Officer, if you see this minivan, keep watch and then promptly pull her over and ticket her. The life you save may be mine. Thank you!

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