Dover Police to target distracted drivers, seat belt violators

DOVER — Throughout April, Dover Police will crack down on distracted driving and seat belt violations within the city, authorities announced this week.

Since January 2011, it has been illegal to use cellphones while driving unless a hands-free device is being used. Despite numerous campaigns, advertisements, and enforcement efforts, police said in a news release, the department is still seeing drivers on their phones talking or texting while driving, as well as several accidents attributed to distracted driving.

This not only creates a dangerous situation for the driver and their passengers, but every person around them on roadways, police said.

Chief Marvin Mailey has tasked officers to focus their traffic enforcement efforts on distracted driving and seat belt violations throughout next month, which will also coincide with the multi-agency 2018 Drive to Save Lives initiative from April 20-21 and National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“The goal of this initiative is to educate drivers about Delaware’s laws regarding distracted driving and seat belt usage and correct the behavior of violators who put themselves and others at risk on our roadways,” Chief Mailey said.

“While a recent Delaware Office of Highway Safety study states that current seat belt usage rate is 92 percent (compared to the national seat belt rate of 86 percent), we are still obligated to ensure that drivers and passengers are properly secured and obeying our laws for their own safety.

“Distracted driving, specifically the use of cell phones while driving, continues to be a major factor in crashes in the city, following the trend of state and national data as well.

“While our total amount of vehicle crashes (1,817) was a five-year low for the city of Dover, I firmly believe that we can continue to drive that number down through distracted driving enforcement efforts and make our streets safer to travel.”

Delaware’s cell phone laws are outlined in Title 21, Section 701(a)(4).

Facts and statistics

•The number of people killed nationwide in distraction-affected crashes in 2016 was 3,450. An estimated 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2015 as well.

•10 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. That age group had the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.

•Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. (NHTSA)

•Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. (VTTI)

•Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)

•A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, and 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving. (UMTRI)

Delaware seat belt law

Delaware’s seat belt law requires:

•Everyone in the vehicle, including backseat passengers and children, must wear seat belts properly.

•Lap and shoulder belts must be worn and shoulder belts must not be placed behind the back or under the arm.

•The driver will receive an $83.50 fine (plus court costs) for the failure of anyone in the vehicle to buckle up.

According to Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety:

•44 percent of all occupant fatalities in 2016 were unrestrained.

•January through June are the months with the most unrestrained crashes

•39 percent of unrestrained crashes happen between 5 and 10 p.m.

•Wearing a seat belt increases your chance of surviving a crash by almost 50 percent, while reducing the severity of injury.

•77 percent of people involved in unrestrained crashes are males.

•Motorists are four times more likely to be killed in a crash if you are ejected from a vehicle because you are not buckled up.

•Hospital data shows that unbelted occupants in crashes are three times more likely to require a hospital stay. On average, hospital costs for an unbelted crash victim are 55 percent higher than those for a belted crash victim.

•Strong seat belt laws protect families. When parents are buckled up, 90 percent of the time their children are too.

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