La Crosse Police crack down on distracted driving

More than 3,000 people nationwide died as result of a car crash caused by a distracted driver in 2013.

More than 3,000 people died nationwide in 2013 in car crashes caused by distracted drivers.

La Crosse police officers say they are seeing more and more distracted drivers on the roads, and they want to put a stop to it.

A University of Utah study¬†found that drivers using their cellphones have a slower reaction time than a driver with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level. That’s why the La Crosse Police Department is using grant money from the Wisconsin Department Of Transportation to increase enforcement on the roads, like it did Wednesday, to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving.

There are plenty of things to be distracted by while you’re driving, and many people probably find themselves guilty of not always focusing on the road now and then when behind the wheel.

“Almost hit another car when I was trying to look at my phone,” Shannon Lamm said.

“It’s a huge issue with boards, people don’t really pay attention, don’t really know, don’t look out for you,” Chirs Lanzel said.

“Just yesterday I was in a car and we had a near collision with somebody who was on a cellphone merging into traffic,” Thomas Tucker said.

La Crosse police are trying to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving through increased patrols. They are stopping drivers they see are clearly distracted.

“People often just thinking of the texting and driving, but you also have to think of just talking on the cellphone, doing multiple things at once, (such as) talking on the cellphone or maybe eating a sandwich, or talking on your cellphone and drinking a pop or water,” Lt. Pat Hogan said. “The importance is concentrating on the roadway as to what’s going on.”

Hogan said drivers can be more than just physically distracted drivers, they can be mentally distracted as well.

“Thinking about the day you’ve had at work or at school or something like that,” Hogan said.

Hogan said the push is not to pull over more drivers and write more tickets, it’s about making drivers understand how dangerous being a distracted driver can be for you and the driver in the next lane.

“Sometimes people ask us, ‘Why are you letting us know when you’re going to be out there and where you might be out there?’ We want to let more people know about this instead of just the eight or 10 people that we may stop on that day,” Hogan said.

The La Crosse Police Department is working with the La Crosse County Health Department to educate students about the dangers of distracted driving.

The Holmen and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse police departments are also participating in this grant program.

The La Crosse Police Department will be out four or five times each month looking for distracted drivers as a part of the grant. That will continue through May of next year.