Planning on texting while you’re driving? Better stay away from West Bridgewater.
During a span of three-and-a-half hours Saturday, West Bridgewater police cited 43 drivers for texting while driving on Route 106, the department said.
“We had three spotters in unmarked cars in a small area on 106 and had marked cruisers on both the eastbound and westbound sides about half mile down the road,” West Bridgewater Police Lieutenant Victor Flaherty said. “When the spotters observed someone texting, they would radio down a description of car, driver, and a partial plate number. We then had the uniformed officers signaling those people over.”
Flaherty said 75 cars were stopped in total, but drivers who were able to prove that they were dialing a phone number or getting directions rather than texting were spared the $100 citation.
“A lot of times the phone was open right there on the seat,” he said. “One lady was actually stopped for texting and admitted that she wasn’t texting but was tweeting that the traffic on 106 was outrageous.”
In January, West Bridgewater police cited 37 drivers during a similar operation along Route 106. Last year, police departments statewide issued 1,699 citations for texting while driving. In 2011, the first full year the law was in effect, 1,146 citations were issued, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Normally, anyone issued a citation for texting while driving would have to either pay the $100 fine or appeal the ticket in district court. But any driver cited during Saturday’s operation has the option of attending the police department’s Student Safety Night on March 21 instead.
“I talked to the clerk of courts in Brockton District Court and asked him if the individuals cited attended this class would he dismiss the citation upon appeal,” Flaherty said. “Not only did he agree to that, but he said if they appeal the citation and attend the class he will dismiss it without them having to take a day off of work and appear in court.”
Flaherty said the department intends to conduct similar operations about six times a year in hopes that they can educate drivers to the dangers of texting while driving.
“People will realize that texting is against the law, but people are going to realize that when they see the West Bridgewater sign they’ll put their phones aside,” he said. “When they come here, their chances of getting caught is more than probably anywhere in the state.”Colin A. Young can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.