Anchorage Police Target Distracted Drivers

Texting_while_at_the_wheel_(4351110509)Anchorage Law Enforcement is cracking down on distracted driving, just as a national study highlights the problem. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton reports.
We’ve all been there – stopped at at red light — whether you’re the one texting and then sitting there blocking traffic when the light turns green … or the person stuck in traffic behind them.


“A lotta people do it usually during stop lights when they’re vehicle is stopped which is still not a good idea, cause then the light turns green, they’re still sitting their at the intersection and they’re honking at em.”

That’s legal but dangerous says, Anchorage Police Department Officer Patrick Martin, who works in the APD’s traffic unit. He sees all kinds of distracted driving, but he says a lot of it involves cell phones

“I see a lot of talking on the phones. I see a lotta people lookin at their phones — it looks like they’re texting and driving and then they’ll put it up to their ear. You’ll see people manipulating the phones with their thumbs like they are texting and driving and then they realize someone’s looking at ’em so they’ll put it down in their lap like they’re not doing anything.”

A law explicitly banning texting & driving in Alaska went into effect in 2012, but there are no other limits on using cell phones while driving in the state. Martin recently attended a distracted driver training seminar put on by the Alaska Peace Officers Association. The training came on the heels of the first fatal texting-and-driving case in the state since the law was enacted. Earlier this month an Anchorage teenager was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and felony texting-while-driving. He’s accused of texting behind the wheel, running a red light and killing a 27-year-old woman in midtown earlier this year. Martin says the APD is cracking down on distracted driving.

“Daysha: Is it fair to say that you’re increasingly cracking down on this? Martin: We are looking for it. We’re out their actively searching out the people who are driving and texting and we’re out there trying to make a more profound effect to keep our roads safer.”

Earlier this week a study commissioned the American Automobile Association and University of Utah Researchers sounded the alarm about voice controlled technology for text messages, emails and phone calls, saying it is more distracting than listening to the radio or talking with passengers. Officer Martin says voice controlled technology is a growing problem in Anchorage traffic cases as well. Prosecutors says they’ve filed more than 30 texting-while-driving cases in the past year.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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