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Logan police program cracks down on drivers' 'Main Distraction'

Published: Friday, Feb. 1 2013 11:13 a.m. MST

Logan police started a program to stop distracted driving on its Main Street. Since the program began in 2009, traffic accidents have dropped 30 percent.

James Young, Deseret News

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LOGAN — A campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving has helped reduce the number of accidents on Logan’s Main Street by 30 percent. 

For the past two years, the Logan Police Department has cracked down on distracted driving on Main Street with a focus on cellphone use. It's an effort called "Stop the Main Distraction."

The department received a $25,000 grant from the Utah Highway Safety Office. Part of that money pays for enforcement on Main Street, but the majority goes to the campaign and education of drivers.

"I believe that cellphone use has just become an epidemic," Logan Police Lt. Rod Peterson said. "We are so addicted to it. We've just got to pick it up."

With the exception of talking on the phone, texting or manipulating cellphones while driving is against the law in Utah.

It’s estimated that 1.4 million crashes each year involve drivers using cellphones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year involve drivers who are texting, according to the National Safety Council.

For Peterson, keeping his eyes open for people texting while driving or surfing their phones behind the wheel has become second nature to him.

"We send officers up on Main Street specifically looking for drivers who were manipulating their cellphones," he said. "We take pictures of them as they are driving."

Officers down the road then pull them over. When police first started doing this two years ago, one in 12 motorists was using a cellphone on Main Street. Now, it's one in 23.

"The citation for manipulating a cellphone while operating a vehicle is $310," said Peterson. "That's a citation you only want to have to get once."

In 2009 there were 582 accidents on Main Street. Two years of campaigning has reduced the number of accidents to 416. Crashes are down nearly 30 percent since the program started.  

In addition to the enforcement, officers want to let the community know what they are doing. They put up signs to let everybody know that distracted driving is not tolerated on Main Street. 

"My hat is off to the public because I believe they are recognizing the dangers," Peterson said.

The police department estimates that motorists have saved more than $660,000 in property damage and personal injury costs since the program began.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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