standing Rhode Island State Police hq

Rhode Island State Police headquarters in North Scituate. Sun file photo

The Rhode Island State Police said its troopers issued 93 citations or warnings during the weeklong "U Drive, U Text, U Pay" campaign that ended on Monday. The enforcement action aimed at drivers using cellphones is carried out twice a year in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

During the week, the police cited or warned 65 drivers for using a handheld device while driving and 28 for texting. Officials said three others were also cited for using prohibited earphones or headsets. Over the course of the week, the troopers stopped 813 vehicles for a variety of offenses.

“We hope this campaign sent a strong message to all motorists that we will not tolerate distracted driving on our roadways,” said Col. James M. Manni, state police superintendent.

According to the safety council, distracted driving is estimated to cause nine deaths and 100 injuries each day across the country. NHTSA estimates that at any given time, an estimated 660,000 people nationwide are using the cellphones or devices while driving. That's why safety officials have designated April as "Distracted Driving Awareness Month" and have provided funding for the additional enforcement.

Under Rhode Island law, anyone found to be using a handheld communication device while driving is subject to a fine up to $100; anyone found to be texting while driving is subject to a fine of $100 and/or license suspension up to 30 days; and anyone found to be using earphones, a headset, headphone or other listening device while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle is subject to a fine of $85.

Manni said that troopers have been instructed to continue their vigilance in an effort to avoid tragedies this summer.

“This highway safety campaign may be over, but our troopers will continue to educate motorists as to the dangers of distracted driving and enforce all motor vehicle laws, especially those involving handheld use of cellphones and/or or texting while driving,” he said.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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