Police across the country have developed different techniques to catch people who text while driving. The Wall Street Journal reported that authorities have a hard time going after people for texting while driving because it is hard to prove “and citations can be contested in court.”

Some officers have disguised themselves as construction workers while others pose as panhandlers in order to catch those who text and drive.

Operations

Officers in Marietta, GA, started to pose as construction workers in 2015, about five years after the state banned texting while driving. Officer Nick Serkedakis stated the department chose this route because the town witnessed more fatalities and data showed officials that “a lack of seat belts and texting were major contributors.” AJC continued:

The faux construction workers, who spent about two-and-a-half hours on the road total, issued 90 citations, about half for texting. Serkedakis says that’s as many tickets as they give out typically in a week.

“This isn’t about your safety. It’s about revenue,” says Will Mullis of Atlanta. He added that he often uses an app on his phone to navigate his way around traffic. “It’s absurd to think I’d get a ticket for checking directions.”

Back in October 2015, a police officer in Maryland decided to go undercover as a homeless man. From The New York Post:

Cpl. Patrick Robinson went undercover Tuesday morning equipped with a police radio and a body camera. He held a sign that read, “I am not homeless. I am a Montgomery County police officer looking for cell phone texting violations.”

Montgomery County police Sgt. Phillip Chapin and about eight other officers issued a total of 56 tickets county-wide that day, including 31 tickets and 9 warnings to people caught using their phones without hands-free devices.

Chapin says authorities are seeing more distracted-driver-related deaths as a result of people using their phones while behind the wheel.

Some officers ride in unmarked cars to peer into vehicles. If they find someone texting while driving they will alert an officer ahead in traffic. From WSJ:

On a recent stormy afternoon in Macomb County, Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw sat in the passenger seat of a nondescript black GMC Yukon that traversed M-59, a busy highway spanning the northern Detroit suburbs. Lt. Shaw was watching for texting drivers; when one was spotted, he would radio ahead to a police car waiting to nab offenders. In the driver’s seat was Jim Santilli, chief executive of the nonprofit Transportation Improvement Association of Michigan, which teamed up with the Michigan state police on the operation.

Ghostrider efforts have been fruitful. Since the program’s start, more than 140 drivers were pulled over and more than 100 citations were issued.

Steps to Enhance Voice Commands in Cars

Car companies have tried to fight back against this problem by adding technology features inside the cars. WSJ reported that “95% of vehicles built for the 2016 model year had features enabling at least some form of hands-free phone use.” But people have complained “about glitchy performance.”

Two years ago, “University of Utah psychologists for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety” conducted two studies on voice control systems in cars. The studies found that every system “had a moderate level of distraction.”

The New York Times reported in 2017 that car companies will soon place better voice controls in the cars:

This week at the International CES, the giant electronics conference in Las Vegas, Ford Motor announced that owners of its cars would soon be able to use Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated assistant in their vehicles. Drivers will be able to ask for a weather report, stream music from Amazon Music or add appointments to their calendars. They will also be able to use Alexa from home to start or unlock their cars remotely.

But the automaker also envisions drivers using Alexa to help with other tasks — like shopping on Amazon. Stuck in traffic? You can take care of Valentine’s Day by saying, “Alexa, order flowers on Amazon.”

Other companies are moving in the same direction. Apple’s Siri can be used to control iPhone functions in cars, and Apple’s CarPlay software allows drivers to dictate text messages while driving, as well as program destinations into Apple Maps and have the route plotted on the car’s display. Google’s Android Auto can do the same.

Alphabet Inc, owners of Google, and Apple have started to add “programs that allow drivers to plug their phone into the car and operate functions on the dash.”