How do the police know if someone is distracted while driving?

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Many drivers who glance at their phones do not think that others can see them doing it. They also assume that the effort of quickly glancing at their phone is equivalent to that of changing the radio station or checking their car's speed. However, cell phones tend to distract drivers more frequently than these other activities and often result in an extended period of time with a driver's eyes off of the road.

Five seconds is the average time that a person looks at their phone while driving. Traveling at 55 mph, you can drive the distance of a football field during that time. In 2017 in Texas, there were over 100,000 car accidents attributed to distracted driving that resulted in 2,889 injuries and 444 fatalities.

A distracted driving fine in Texas costs between $25 to $99 and up to $200 for subsequent offenses. Distracted driving is a moving violation and will go on your driving record.

How are distracted drivers caught?

Police are finding unique ways to catch those who are not keeping their eyes on the road.

  • Overpass spotters - A police officer will take position on an overpass and look down at drivers to see if they are watching the road or looking at their phones. If they spot a distracted driver, they will radio to an officer down the road will take it from there.
  • Using a semi-truck - This method is similar to using an overpass, but this gives police officers an overhead view into cars as they move around. The traffic stop is made by a police officer in a squad car who receives a radio call from the officer in the semi-truck.
  • Cell phone records - Typically, records detailing cell-phone use are not retrieved unless there is an accident involving injury or death. But the records will indicate if the driver had just sent a text, was using social media or accessing the internet.
  • Body language - Police officers, as well as the general public, have become quite adept at spotting someone who is looking down at their phone. It is even easier at night when you can spot the glow of the phone near the driver.
  • Textalyzer - A new technology that is not in use right now, but may be soon. If you are pulled over for suspicion of distracted driving, an officer will hand over a cord that plugs into your phone. From there, the officer can download an activity log from your phone to see if the phone was in use while driving.

If you think that you can text and drive, you may want to re-think your actions. Distracted driving can be very dangerous and lead to catastrophic injuries or fatalities.

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