The high number of traffic fatalities in Columbus this year prompted a Columbus Police sting operation Thursday morning aimed at distracted drivers in the Bradley Park area.
Columbus Police issued 96 citations, most for distracted driving and no seat belts, in two and a half hours Thursday morning during the hours most people are going to work, Lt. Clyde Dent said.
The fine and court costs for distracted driving in Columbus Recorder’s Court amounts to $200.63. The fine for not wearing a seat belt is $15.
About 15 police officers, most of them motorcycle officers but some of them spotters in plain clothes, were working Bradley Park Drive between J.R. Allen Parkway and the Chick-fil-A restaurant. When a distracted driver was spotted, one of the motorcycle officers would pull the vehicle over and issue the citation.
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There have been 14 Muscogee County traffic fatalities in the first five months of 2017, police said.
“A lot of those fatalities and accidents can be attributed to texting and driving or basically distracted driving and (no) seat belts,” Sgt. Chris Anderson said. “We decided to conduct a traffic enforcement detail focusing mainly on distracted driving and seat belt violations.”
The activities that constituted the distracted driving tickets on Thursday morning included texting, checking Facebook on mobile phones, entering data in phone GPS, reading a letter placed on the steering wheel while driving with the knees, and applying makeup, police said.
“There was even one using a laptop while driving,” said Maj. J.D. Hawk, who supervises the patrol division.
The car could be stopped at a red light for a ticket to be issued, Anderson said.
“They have to be in direct control of the vehicle,” Anderson said. “The vehicle does not have to be in motion.”
The idea for the operation came out of a similar one in metro Atlanta, said Dent.
“We are trying to do the right thing and raise public awareness to the dangers of being distracted while driving,” Anderson said.
It’s a huge problem, Dent said.
“I knew it was a problem, but it is worse than I thought it was,” said Dent. “This worked this morning and we will be moving it to other parts of the city.”