Metro police increase enforcement of texting while driving law

(Photo: WKRN)

Metro police have increased the number of texting while driving citations issued to drivers.

News 2 obtained the number of citations issued driving dating back to 2012.

In 2012, MNPD reported 26 citations issued. In 2013, that number increased to 46 citations.

So far in 2014, officers have issued 62 citations, a 138 percent increase over 2012.

“This one mindless act on the part of a driver could affect so many others,” said Sgt. Bob Sheffield works with MNPD’s traffic division’s fatal crash investigation unit. “It is not just themselves but every other motorist who is on the roadway with them at the same time.”

He continued, “There is next to never one day when they come in without at least one to two stops for texting while driving or using due care.”

Failure to use due care is another citation officers can issue for distracted driving.

“When you are driving distracted you are pretty much driving just like you are impaired,” Sgt. Sheffield said. “Studies have shown your reaction time is about the same as if you are driving at the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol.”

In Nashville, one family has experienced the dangers of texting and driving firsthand.

The mother, father and sister of Hillary Colthrap spent last Thursday in a surgical waiting room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

It’s a place that, since Labor Day weekend 2007, the family has come to think of as another home.

Colthrap was critically injured in a car crash in Paducah, Kentucky.

The family was waiting for Hillary to come out of an orthopedic surgery to correct damage done to her foot in the crash when they spoke to News 2 last Thursday.

“We called her and she was running late,” Hillary’s mother Shawn Colthrap recalled. “She said, ‘I will be there. I am just four miles out so go ahead and order my appetizer.’”

Colthrap never arrived.

She started texting while driving and lost control of her convertible on Interstate 24.

“She shot out of her car after rolling three or four times,” her mother explained. “Seventy-five to 100 feet is how far she flew and ended up on the other side of the interstate.”

Hillary sustained critical injuries to her skull, had severe brain trauma, suffered a collapsed lung and multiple broken bones.

During Hillary’s lengthy recovery, she has spoken about her wreck in the hopes of keeping others from going through what she and her family have faced.

“Our lives will never be the same,” her mother said. “The people at the trauma unit here will tell you it is not an accident. It is completely preventable.”

The entire Colthrap family, including Hillary’s 12-year-old son, is working to cope with all the challenges Hillary faces in her recovery.

The National Highway Safety Administration reports that 10 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.

If police issue a citation for texting while driving, it is a Class C misdemeanor. A judge can impose a fine of up to $50.

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