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Police Go Undercover to Catch People Who Text While Driving

Police Go Undercover to Catch People Who Text While Driving

They can pose as homeless men, construction workers.

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.


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.”


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I hate this kind of enforcement. A crying kid in the backseat is more distracting but we aren’t outlawing driving with kids under 15. This banning cell-phone driving is a perfect example of.. the ought to be a law!

Make everything illegal you don’t like. How about, you cause a wreck while distracted your insurance company pops your rates up. But no.. let’s mandate all the things.

    I keep waiting for them to ban eating or having a nonalcoholic beverage while driving. That would kill two pet Democrat stones with one fell swoop: kill fast food drive-throughs and allow them to dictate what we can and cannot do in our cars.

    Old0311 in reply to RobM. | May 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I’m guessing you don’t see this issue from the point of view of a motorcyclist. People texting and driving are dangerous as heck.

      gbear in reply to Old0311. | May 15, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      So are deer and other wildlife, so is the rig driver who doesn’t see you, so are you if you don’t get your kickstand up all the way. If you are afraid of a texting driver you may want to consider another thrill. This is just another way to pick our pockets.

      scooterjay in reply to Old0311. | May 15, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      I, too, am a motorcycle enthusiast. I have discovered that you, and you alone, are responsible for your safety while riding. Being alert and riding defensively keeps you alive.

        Old0311 in reply to scooterjay. | May 16, 2017 at 9:47 am

        What about the texting driver who rear ends you at a red light. I guess the motorcyclist should have been in a car. That’s kind of like she wouldn’t have been raped if she hadn’t worn such a short skirt.

        I have plenty of miles on two wheels and texting drivers are in the same group as drunks as far as I am concerned. Stay alert and stay alive certainly applies, but there are situations over which you have no control.

        By condoning texting you are just encouraging an activity that is dangerous to both the distracted driver and anyone else on the road.

          CaptTee in reply to Old0311. | May 16, 2017 at 11:20 am

          Which is a worse threat: a distracted driver or a police state?
          I don’t want either, but a police state is not the solution to distracted drivers.
          Allowing the insurance companies to double the deductibles would make people think twice about allowing themselves to be distracted.
          We need to make it socially unacceptable for a driver to pick up a phone in a moving vehicle, except to call 911 to report a drunk or distracted driver.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Old0311. | May 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      They’re a large part of the slow down in traffic also.
      They take so long to notice a light has turned green – cause they’re cell phoning or texting………

      Jackie in reply to Old0311. | May 16, 2017 at 6:31 am

      Even taking a phone call on your cell is dangerous. My friend was running late and gets a call on his cell asking where he was and ended up ramming the car in front of him. Texting is ridiculous. People can’t wait until they are out of their cars? Everyone knows it’s illegal. Just don’t do it.

      Sorry, Old, I still have an “I’ll buckle up when Bundy does” bumper sticker. Sure he “buckled up,” but the constant heavy hand of government dictating our every move in our cars is something that I can’t abide. As a motorcyclist, just know that you aren’t as visible to people driving cars/minivans and be appropriately cautious.

BrokeGopher | May 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm

The law is too broad. Sure you cover 100 yards at 55 MPH, but how much do you cover at zero MPH? Are you saying I’m incapable of inching forward in a traffic jam while on the phone? Stopped completely? How likely are you to hit something on an interstate where there are no cars in that 100 yards? No pedestrians, no traffic signs or signals…

I drive about 1,500 miles a week between Redstone Arsenal Al and Columbia SC. I would say about 20% of all the cars I pass or that pass me, the driver is on the phone or texting. The ones texting swerve as if drunk, The ones talking drive about 10 MPH slower than the surrounding traffic. I drive pass at least 1 significant accident every two weeks and multiple fender benders. I guarantee most are cell phone related.

    scooterjay in reply to jtowers. | May 15, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    I drive the 112 miles weekly between Greer, SC and Columbia, SC and one of the biggest problems I see is the aggressive Prius driver!

I suppose frivolity has its place … too bad it has to be such a prominent place.

Drivers will be able to ask for a weather report, stream music from Amazon Music or add appointments to their calendars.

A lot of answers to the questions nobody asked.

Stuck in traffic? You can take care of Valentine’s Day by saying, “Alexa, order flowers on Amazon.”

Life with this person must be magic.

For fun I feel like paying a homeless dude 100 bucks to hold that sign in my very liberal city in my very liberal and nanny state.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | May 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

A couple of months ago I was eastbound coming down a long hill with a slight slope. Two lanes of traffic going east and two lanes gong west. I’m in the extreme right lane. The next intersection was over a quarter mile away. Probably 3 tenths or 4 tenths of a mile. A car was sitting at that intersection. It had plenty of time and no traffic to prevent it from proceeding safely. But it just sat there.

As I got closer I could see the driver was looking into a cell phone. I’m going about 45mph. Decent rate of speed. Just as I am about to enter the intersection (there were not stop lights or signs for eastbound traffic) the driver decides to pull out in front of me and make his left turn.

My instincts completely took over. May left hand seemed to involuntarily go up to the ceiling to brace for the impact and I turned the wheel sharply to the left without checking the mirrors to see if there were any cars in that lane. Luckily, there weren’t. Pure survival instincts, I guess. We avoided contact but it felt like my heart skipped a beat or two.

As soon as I realized we’d avoided contact I hit my horn and gave the other driver the finger, but the car was speeding away.

Revenue generation just got that much more generative. Who is willingly going to accept a ticket from a “homeless guy” or a “construction worker?” There will be “resistance” and “fleeing the scene” and the accompanying enhanced punishments. How convenient! These wankers have a constant stream of bright ideas for law enforcement so long as it doesn’t involve stopping real crime.

States that put in a no texting ban had an increase in accidents as people were still texting, but trying to hide it.

Sane people beware.

Don’t the police have better things to do, like chase drug dealers?

This is a very racist policy since people of color tend to be driving beaters without that expensive new technology for voice activated commands with blue tooth. Racist I tell you. Class action lawsuit against these laws.
Its also unfair in Marxist class dialectic since all poorer people are disadvantaged compared to better off people with those nicer cars.

Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and the God given right to stare at my cell phone no matter what I,m doing, 24/7…

I think the only way to keep people off their phones while driving is for that activity to become “socially unacceptable”.
(like public smoking or drinking and driving)

But until then…”Beware the Phone Zombies”!!!!

I think the law is probably good, but it probably won’t stop much. What irks me is cops who text or talk on the phone. I see it all the time in my community (and no turn signal). I videotaped one swerving all over the place, but was afraid to show their boss as I’ll probably get a ticket for using my phone while driving.

Who’s going to give them a ticket.

So when I see a cop using his in car computer or shooting a hand held radar while driving I get to pull him over? I got pulled over because a cop ran my plates while trying to drive, she said my plates were registered to a bus, how do you tell a cop she shouldn’t type and drive?

My wife and I just returned from a weeklong cruise and it was amazing to watch the idiots who were glued to their cell phones; refusing to relax and enjoy the days away from the grind at home. Beautiful ocean, cool breezes, interesting people to meet and they stayed glued to their phones. Felt like telling them that they need to call 1-800-get-a-life.

    hrhdhd in reply to 94Corvette. | May 16, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Yes, cruise ships used to be one place to get away from the phone addicts. And from one’s employer while on vacation!

30 Million+ illegal aliens in this country, and the overwhelming majority of law enforcement spend their time, and our money, finding more and more ways to take money from citizens.

buckeyeminuteman | May 16, 2017 at 8:48 am

Wouldn’t driving around looking inside every vehicle be distracted driving as well? What’s next, no more Big Macs or bean burritos?