By AIMEE CHO
In response to recent complaints from Ithaca residents about texting while driving, the Ithaca Police Department held a crackdown campaign last weekend, issuing 48 tickets for texting and talking on the phone while driving.
The Texting While Driving campaign was organized by Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 and IPD Chief John Barber, according to Jamie Williamson, public information officer for IPD.
Myrick said in a City press release that he and Barber worked together to organize extra police patrols.
“Members of our community have reached out to let me know how frequent[ly] these violations occur and how dangerous it is. As mayor of this city, I have an obligation to act on this,” Myrick said.
According to Williamson, Myrick and Barber conducted research on the issue and obtained funding before implementing the campaign.
“The Chief and the Mayor have a responsibility to provide a safe community, and texting while driving undermines that,” Williamson said.
The penalties for a texting-while-driving conviction include a five point penalty on a driver’s license, a mandatory 60-day license suspension, a fine of up to $150 and a mandatory surcharge of $85, according to the press release.
Barber said the results of the campaign were “impressive.” In addition to the 48 tickets for texting and talking on the phone while driving, officers also issued 35 tickets for various other offenses during the campaign.
“I know our officers work hard to make the streets safe, and this is a great example of that,” Barber said.
Williamson echoed Barber, saying he felt the campaign was effective. He added that the results need to be more widespread.
“We just prevented 48 potential motor vehicle accidents. But it’s only effective [when] people know about it. The more coverage that we can get on these issues with social media, newspapers, radio and television, it will show that we are responsive to concerns in our community,” he said.
Several people left positive comments on the IPD’s Facebook page in response to the texting while driving crackdown.
“Glad to hear it. Too many drivers on the road [are] not paying enough attention even when they’re not texting. Those who add even more danger by doing something so stupid need a wake up call before it’s too late,” Karen Paetow said on Facebook.
Williamson said he feels that the younger generation is more likely to text while driving.
“Folks that are younger are more adapted to utilizing technology. When I graduated high school, we didn’t even have computers,” he said.
Williamson also said the IPD is hoping to increase its presence online and in the media in order to raise awareness about issues, including texting while driving.
“We really want folks to go to our Facebook page and like us, and tell their friends to like us, so that we can get the word out on different things. [The Facebook page] is really an untapped resource,” he said. “We’ve got 2,800 likes on Facebook, but there are 100,000 residents in the Greater Ithaca area.”
According to Williamson, the Ithaca Police Department is planning several other safe driving campaigns in the near future on issues such as seatbelt wearing, driving under the influence and speeding in school zones.
“The unfortunate reality in law enforcement is that economics drive a lot of what we can and cannot do. As long as the funding is there, the Chief and the Mayor will work hand-in-hand to tackle these issues that they’ve identified as important to the community,” he said.