It was an elaborate crackdown, the first of its kind in West Bridgewater, Ma., says the Boston Globe: Plainclothes officers stationed along Route 106 spotted dozens of people engrossed in their cellphones while they drove. A quarter-mile ahead, uniformed officers pulled the drivers over, 51 in total, for texting while driving. While 37 people were given $100 citations or warnings, 14 others were let go. They were not texting, they explained; they were dialing a call or looking at directions, both still legal.
The operation, prompted in part by an increase in rear-end accidents in the town, highlights the prevalence of texting while driving, while illustrating why more jurisdictions are not cracking down. When officers are alone on patrol, police Lt. Victor Flaherty said, it’s nearly impossible for them to ascertain who should be pulled over for violating the law and who is using their phone legally, for instance to help guide them to their destination. To enforce the law effectively, he said, the state needs a total ban prohibiting all use of handheld cellphones while driving, requiring drivers to go “hands-free” by using a headset, speakerphone, or voice dialing. As it is, he said, “you can’t really tell the difference beween what they’re doing." Since the texting ban went into effect in September 2010, police departments around the state have issued increasing numbers of citations to drivers. In the first nine months of 2012, 1,278 citations were issued statewide. During the same time period in 2011, citations were issued to 860 drivers.