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Police Enforcement Project Targeting Distracted Drivers

Newtown police working with police from other area towns will conduct an enforcement campaign against distracted driving from March 27 through April 2, according to Lieutenant George Sinko, who oversees the police patrol division.

Newtown police will be working with police from Bethel, Brookfield, Redding, and Ridgefield in the seven-day enforcement project, Lt Sinko said in a statement.

Police from all five towns will concentrate their enforcement on two of those seven days in Newtown. Police did not disclose which two days they will focus on Newtown.

Enforcement will focus on distracted driving generally, with specific attention to the illegal use of a handheld cell phone while driving and illegal use of a texting device while driving.

State police, as well as police from Monroe and Danbury, will conduct similar enforcement projects within their respective jurisdictions.

The enforcement campaign will include use of unmarked vehicles, spotters, and roving patrols.

In Connecticut, state law provides that cellphone/texting violations carry heavy fines. The first offenses has a $150 fine; a second offense results in a $300 fine; each additional offense carries a $500 fine.

Distracted driving also includes eating, drinking, attending to children, talking to passengers, grooming, applying makeup, looking at maps, and using electronic devices such as navigation systems.

Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous activities possible while driving, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA). During 2011, more than 3,300 people were killed and about 387,000 people were injured in collisions involving a distracted driver, according to NHTSA.

The state Department of Transportation and NHTSA are providing grants that cover 75 percent of the police overtime costs for the enforcement project.

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