Hamden PD cracks down on distracted driving

Matt Grahn

The Hamden Police Department is taking distracted driving seriously this month.
[/media-credit] The Hamden Police Department is taking distracted driving seriously this month.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the National Safety Council, and that is not going unnoticed by the Hamden Police Department.

Nationally, eight people per day died from distracted driving-related accidents in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In terms of the state of Connecticut, Sgt. Anthony Diaz of the Hamden Police Department said Hamden has been leading the state in terms of the number of infractions for distracted driving.

“It’s not a matter of getting a ticket,” Diaz said. “It’s the fact that it’s dangerous.”

That is why, with the help of a state grant,   Hamden police has been stepping up patrols for distracted drivers for a second year in a row as a part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The initiative itself is promoted by groups like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Safety Council, to encourage the public to be safer drivers.

Diaz said the grants allow for there to be officers dedicated to looking out for distracted driving.

“We’re out in the roadways. We’re stopping people in groups, and people are gonna notice that we’re out there,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll get the message that [Hamden PD] is not going to tolerate distracted driving.”

Freshman Remington Borg said he thinks it’s beneficial that Hamden PD is participating in Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“I think it is very positive,” Borg said. “As a college student, I want to be as safe as possible and one of the most important things is making sure that people aren’t distracted while they’re driving.”

Senior Erica Cianciosi also approves of what Hamden PD is doing. Cianciosi is also a part of a project called “It’s In Your Hands, QU,” dedicated to preventing distracted driving.

“I think that, in combination with what we’re doing, people are really starting to change their habits,” Cianciosi said.

Senior Alexa Volpe said “In Your Hands” was created as a project for a healthcare PR class that both she and Cianciosi are in. The campaign is mostly based on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with each week of the month having a different distraction theme.

“It might only be down the street, but your friend’s lives are #InYourHandsQU,” reads one post from the “In Your Hands” Facebook page.

“In Your Hands” also held an event on April 18 where students would signed a pledge to not drive distracted and were given a donut afterword. Cianciosi said there were about 200 signatures, which has been their biggest success so far.

Volpe is pleased with the effect “In Your Hands” is having on Quinnipiac.

“It’s great to know that people are talking about [It’s In Your Hands QU], and people are really being impacted by it,” she said.

Even those running it, like Cianciosi, have taken something away from it.

“Throughout this campaign, I learned things that I didn’t even realize I was doing, such as fixing my hair in the mirror. It’s all these little things that inhibit the way that you drive,” she said.

Beyond typical driving safety, Diaz emphasized the importance of staying off the phone while driving.

“Stay off the phones. We’re not looking to issue a lot of citations for distracted driving,” he said. “Our objective is to change people’s behavior, by getting them to drive without being on their cell phones: texting or talking.”