You often know distracted driving when you see it.
“When you see them swerving to the left or right,” said Clara Folston of Waterbury.
“Then the light will change and they won’t move,” added Zina Newman of Prospect.
Distracted driving doesn’t just irritate the people who share the road with you. It kills. Nine lives are taken every day by distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Tuesday, state and local police forces launched campaigns to catch distracted drivers before they become a statistic.
“You drive, you text, you pay,” said David Silverio of the Waterbury Police Department.
Tuesday morning in Waterbury, police set up an operation to nab distracted drivers. In less than three hours, Silverio said 31 people were pulled over for driving with their phone in their hands.
“Within minutes of the campaign starting police officers were stopping motorists,” said Silverio.
The American Automobile Association has their own sobering message, comparing texting while driving to drinking while driving. AAA is partnering with state authorities on the new “Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign.
“It used to be when you saw a car swerving around in the road you thought oh that person I bet they’re drunk, but now you think I bet they’re on their phone,” said Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA of Greater Hartford.
Zina Newman knows better than to text while driving.
“You could be dead, like in a matter of a second. A quick second,” she pointed out.
Despite the warnings, the temptation to pick up the phone when she’s behind the wheel can be difficult to resist.
“Ya, guilty,” admitted Newman. “My phone will ring and I think it’s my kids.”
“I know I’m not supposed to, but yes,” said Folston.
Andrea LeCours hopes sharing the story of the loss of her father, who was killed by a distracted driver, will save someone else’s life.
“I hate that I’m not going to get to walk down the aisle with him next year. He’s not going to see his granddaughter grow up,” said LeCours.
Her father, Henry Flynn, of Wolcott was killed on a Bristol road in October of 2017. According to court filings, the driver who killed her father pled guilty to negligent homicide. Her six-month jail sentence was suspended.
“Really really wish that no other family would have to go through this,” said Flynn’s wife Kelly.
She now advocates for stricter distracted driving laws. She wants more than a fine for breaking the law, she thinks drivers should have their license suspended just like drunk drivers do.
“Taking your eyes away from the road can kill people,” said Kelly Flynn.
The mother and daughter joined Rhea Bhat at AAA’s kick-off campaign event for National Distracted Driving Awareness month. The ninth grader from Darien was hit by a pick-up truck right after stepping off the school bus.
“I was lucky to survive,” said Bhat. “I actually didn’t know what happened. I was moved back. I was pushed toward the ground. I almost was knocked out until someone came and found me.”
She’s now started an awareness campaign in her town about the dangers of distracted driving.
“How do you miss a huge school bus, yellow and red colors… I don’t know how you miss it and I don’t know how you miss me,” she said.
While Bhat knows she’s lucky to be alive, Flynn’s family has to live every day knowing their loved one wasn’t so lucky. They say the driver who killed him does too.
“You not only ruin people’s lives but you ruin your own. That’s something you’re going to have to live with the rest of your life,” LeCours said.