The federal government wants drivers to know; it’s not safe to text behind the wheel.
In Maine, law enforcement officials are trying to slam the breaks on the alarming trend.
“Just drive.” That’s the slogan of a disturbing new ad campaign from the federal Department of Transportation.
“You miss everything. It is worse than drinking and driving.” Orono Police Chief Josh Ewing has 14 years of law enforcement under his belt. He sees plenty of distracted driving in the university town.
“When you look down at that phone, even if you had the phone up closer to your line of vision, you are completely taking your brain off of what you’re doing,” said Ewing.
In Maine, it’s illegal to text and drive but talking on the phone is not.
Chase Hass has been with the Orono Police Department for a year. He admits it doesn’t take any heightened sensibilities to see a driver is focused on their phone.
“You can see them looking down. You can see them swerving on the road,” said Hass.
More than 70% of teenagers admit they’ve done it. Students at the University of Maine say it’s tempting.
3,300 people died in accidents linked to distracted driving in 2012. 420,000 others were injured. Local officers say the dangers aren’t always apparent to young people.
Hass said, “They don’t realize that they’re completely not watching where they’re going. Someone could walk out when they weren’t looking and run them over.”