The West Virginia State Police is starting a new initiative aimed at cracking down on distracted drivers.
“Operation Chain Reaction is an enforcement initiative funded by federal grant money,” said West Virginia State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous. “Troopers will be on the road attempting to identify distracted drivers.”
The initiative was announced Monday during a press conference at the South Charleston State Police Detachment.
Twenty one counties throughout the state of West Virginia have been selected from the National Highway Safety Administration (NISA) to take part in this initiative. Each county will get $8,000 through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program to use to pay West Virginia State Troopers to go on extra patrols looking for distracted drivers.
Sgt. Chris Zerkle with the West Virginia State Police said NISA has given them a list of the top 100 mile segments of the state highway system with the highest occurrence of either DUI or distracted driver incidents.
When one thinks of distracted driving, they may think of texting or talking on the phone, but Baylous said it involves more than that.
“Personally I’ve witnessed and I’ve heard other stories from other troopers that have seen motorists that are shaving, putting on their makeup, reading the newspaper and I can recall one specific incident that involved someone who was eating a bowl of chili while traveling down the interstate,” said Baylous.
Currently texting while driving is a primary offense in the Mountain State and on July 1 of this year, using a phone without a hands-free device will also be a primary offense.
Zerkle said this is an effort to make the roads safer.
“At this point in the year, the state of West Virginia has had 70 fatalities and we’ve arrested 2,602 DUIs,” said Zerkle.
Baylous said people who choose to drive distracted need to realize one thing.
“That may be the last text or that may be the last phone number that they ever dial,” said Baylous.
The goal of the initiative is to Start a Chain Reaction, Eliminate Distraction.
The initiative began on April 1 and will run through September 15 of this year.