distracted driving

Morgan County Deputy Eddie Manders observes the intersection of Fairplay Road and Main Street in Rutledge near the city’s “Stop Barrel” last Monday.

If you drove past the infamous “stop barrel” in Rutledge on Monday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and didn’t stop, chances are good you were pulled over.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office executed a detail at the intersection of Fairplay Road and Main Street in Rutledge that concentrated on distracted driving in all its forms, from using a phone that is not hands free, to texting, to looking at a phone. If you neglected to wear a seat belt, chances are also good you were stopped, too.

It was all, says Deputy Bo Kelly, an effort to educate local drivers on the dangers of distracted driving with a relaxed enforcement method. “We just want to focus on everybody being safe,” he said at the scene. “If we can make an impact on one person’s life it will be worth it.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed more than 3,000 lives in 2019. The government agency labeled distracted driving as anything that diverts attention from a driver, including talking or texting on you phone, eating and drinking or even talking to someone else in the vehicle. The NHTSA says sending or reading a text for five seconds at 55 mph equates to you driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

An estimated 424,000 persons were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2019 the NHTSA says.

“Distracted driving kills more people than drunk driving,” Deputy Kelly says.

On Monday, while Deputy Kelly and Trooper Zach Goodman sat poised in chase cars, Deputy Eddie Manders stood at the intersection and relayed what he observed as people drove past the stop barrel. Within three minutes of starting the detail, a woman, while talking on her phone waved to Deputy Manders as she drove past.

Drivers stopped were going to have the infraction explained and, most likely, be written a warning ticket. “We are focused more on education more than enforcement at this time,” Kelly says.

“Being that it’s the holiday period, it’s our present to them.”


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