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MPs to target cell phone use, texting while driving on base

Drivers have returned to old cell phone habits when they get behind the wheel, official says

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:48PM September 26th, 2013

The 504th Military Police Battalion, along with members of the Department of the Army Civilian Police, will crack down on drivers talking on cell phones or texting and driving on Joint Base Lewis-McChord from Oct. 6 to 12.

The weeklong program is a subset of the month of October’s enforcement target for the Directorate of Emergency Services and military police.

Drivers on JBLM should never text and drive or use cell phones without hands-free devices, but it’s an especially bad idea next month, and just plain foolhardy during the second week of the month when base law enforcers are specifically targeting violaters.

Reports that drivers at JBLM are backsliding into old, bad phone habits behind the wheel have come from military police officers, other citizens on base and from the installation’s leadership.

“There are people right out my window who have their phone up to their ear and they’re talking while driving,” said Maj. Sharon Lyght, JBLM provost marshal. Military police will blanket the joint base, on the lookout for drivers talking on their cell phone or drivers who seem distracted, a sign of texting.

Depending on the circumstances, drivers will be issued a warning or will receive a ticket of $75. Outside JBLM, the citation is worth $127 throughout Washington state. “We’re looking to just make the public aware that it is illegal and that we have a problem on the installation,” Lyght said.

DES recommends drivers use their phone’s Bluetooth attachment, which leaves both hands free to steer the vehicle.

“When you are holding that phone in your hand and you’re talking with one hand on the wheel, then it becomes an issue,” Lyght said.

Drivers who text also risk taking their eyes off what is around them on the road. While there are no concrete statistics on how many accidents result from texting or talking while driving, MPs have noticed that cell phone placements are rather suspicious.

According to the state of Washington’s Department of Licensing, a driver talking on a cell phone is as impaired as a driver with a .08 blood-alcohol level. A driver texting is estimated at a .16 blood-alcohol level of impairment, double the legal limit.

The state DOL also notes that drivers talking while driving are a second slower to hit the breaks in emergencies and miss more than half the visual cues seen by attentive drivers.