Police have had many years to learn how to catch drunk drivers. There are many signs of impaired driving, as well as breathalyzers and field tests to confirm the offense once the driver is stopped. We even have good technology – ignition interlocks – to prevent drunk drivers from starting their car.
Texting while driving, though widespread, is a recent phenomenon, and police must now develop ways to identify and catch distracted drivers. Some of the same warning signs can be useful – if a driver is too slow, or erratic, for example. But something more is needed.
The Randolph County office of the North Carolina Highway Patrol came up with something more. They sent out NCDOT pickup trucks with plainclothes officers in them to watch for texting drivers. When they spotted one, they contacted troopers in nearby unmarked vehicles to issue a ticket.
Texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina. Offenders face fines and court costs.
Like other states, North Carolina is just beginning to come to terms with the menace of distracted driving. This program has promise, since the pickup trucks blend in and catch texting and phoning drivers off their guard. Until automotive technology catches up, and we adopt an “ignition interlock” that prevents people from using their phones while driving, Randolph County drivers are on notice: that yellow pickup truck might get them picked up if they make the bad decision to text and drive.