“Most of our citations that have come as a result of texting have come in the form of reckless or careless driving (charges),” said Smith. “... What we have to look at is, texting may be illegal and dialing may not be, but crossing the center lane still is, regardless of the root cause.
“Even if you’re just reaching over to change the radio station, there’s nothing illegal about that, but it cannot lead to you crossing the center line or missing a red light or a stop sign,” he added. “Those things are still against the law. We may not know why you ran a red light or crossed the road ... but the end result is what it is. We can still proceed with careless or reckless driving (charges).”
Rather than citations that would end up in court, Somerset Police have mostly “issued a lot of warnings” for instances where a person may be using their phone while driving.
“Being able to differentiate between dialing and texting isn’t easy,” said Smith. “(Officers) will which a person over a period of time. It’s not that you can get behind them and look through the back glass and tell exactly what they’re doing (but) officers will observe them. It’s very ease on U.S. 27 to stay beside somebody and keep a watchful eye over them.”
Of course, Smith noted that officers need to be mindful of their own driving while doing this and “not creating more of a problem.”
Smith said that all cruisers are equipped with video cameras that help document the reason for a traffic stop. “If questions are ever raised in court, we can back up our claims with video evidence,” he noted, specifically referring to reckless driving cases.
Whatever you’re doing on the phone, if you’re doing it while behind the wheel, officers will consider that a sign of distracted driving — and will be keeping a close eye on you.