Updated: Friday, 20 May 2011, 5:26 AM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 18 May 2011, 7:01 PM EDT
HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia State Troopers spend a lot of time driving and while on the road they see just about every type of distraction, as Sgt. Michelle Anaya will attest. "One of the advantages of being in an unmarked car is that you're able to see a lot of that," she said. "You see people texting, putting on their make up, you see people reading."
WAVY.com sent a crew along for a ride and quickly realized how prevalent distracted driving is along the interstates in Hampton Roads. In fact, more than half of those we drove past were talking on the phone. One driver nearly lost control trying to merge onto Interstate 64. As we got closer to his SUV, it became obvious why. He was too busy texting. "And he's not wearing a seatbelt," Sgt. Anaya noticed.
Both of those are secondary violations. Yet, despite the obvious hazard, he was untouchable.
"Basically you just cannot pull somebody over for texting," Sgt. Anaya told WAVY.com. That is, unless you catch him swerving. Sgt. Anaya says that's then considered reckless driving. "So you can write them for reckless driving and you can write them for texting," she added. "I would treat it like an impaired driver, because they're unpredictable."
Sgt. Anaya says keep your distance from those erratic drivers and if they're an obvious danger, call 911.
Just about everywhere we looked it seemed we found someone with their focus off the road and on the phone, and most had no idea they were driving next to a state trooper.
Sgt. Anaya said the problem is getting worse. "You're starting to see more and more traffic accidents.... I believe it's just a case of multi-tasking and people trying to do too many things at one time, in a short period of time."
Sgt. Anaya admitted she too must deal with distractions as part of her job. "Troopers are trained in high speed pursuits because you have to communicate your location and what's going on with the dispatchers and the other troopers that are driving," she explained. Sgt. Anaya's training was obvious.
While carrying on a conversation, her eyes were focused on all parts of the roadway. "When you're driving, you're looking for violations, you're looking for people who are speeding, or weaving," she said.
Most of those out-of-control drivers simply couldn't wait to text.
WAVY TV is encouraging drivers to W82TXT (Wait to Text) behind the wheel, as part of a community awareness campaign. WAVY TV is handing out blue thumb bands with the W82TXT message. The bands are designed to remind people not to text while driving.
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