Nebraska law enforcement cracking down on distracted driving this month

LINCOLN, Neb (KLKN) – If you’ve ever found yourself not watching the road while behind the wheel of your car, officials say you’re putting yourself in danger.

In 2021, over 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Lincoln Police, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol will all be doing their own special enforcement operations this month to reduce distracted driving.

Police will be monitoring specific intersections in the city over the next few weeks to catch distracted drivers who violate red-light traffic signals.

The fine for violating a traffic control signal is $75, and the penalty for texting while driving is $200.

Sgt. Sara Genoways of the Traffic Unit said it doesn’t matter how old you are or how good you think you are at texting and driving, anyone looking at their phone while behind the wheel is at risk.

“Even very experienced people, very well versed in texting and technology, are just as likely to be involved in a crash as somebody who is not familiar with texting, trying to text and drive,” she said.

Genoways said teens and young adults are actually more likely to get into an accident due to distracted driving than older generations, despite being more tech-savvy.

It’s not just texting, either. Officials say making phone calls, eating, adjusting your music and even doing your makeup have all caused accidents before.

Brian Ortner with AAA Nebraska said 119 Nebraskans have been killed on the road because of distracted driving since 2011.

And when you look at the stats for crashes resulting in injuries or property damage, those numbers get much higher.

“You know in every mile you drive, you’re making at least 200 decisions that you’re subconsciously doing in your head,” he said. “And when you bring texting into the mix, it just creates another undue distraction.”

Ortner said that while none of us are perfect, the best way to not drive distracted is to simply not get distracted while driving if possible.

He said you should get in the habit of putting your phone down before you drive, and if you’re expecting a call or text, either pull over or have a passenger take care of it for you.

Lt. Michael Grummert with the Nebraska State Patrol said distracted driving puts yourself, your passengers and other drivers in danger.

“People live on their phones, they do their business, they do work and all that other stuff,” he said. “But just realize when you get behind the wheel, you have to look out for your safety, and you have to look out for everybody’s safety.”

Despite being a secondary offense in Nebraska, the patrol said texting and driving is treated similarly to the Nebraska seat belt law.

Law enforcement can enforce it through ticketing if they’re also enforcing another traffic violation.

For instance, if you speed, fail to signal or cause an accident while texting, you can receive a much pricier fine.

Officials can also pull you over to warn and educate you about the dangers of distracted driving, even if they don’t give out a ticket.

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