The PJ Tatler

Police Go Undercover to Nab Distracted Drivers

As distracted drivers become a greater threat to public safety, police on both coasts are resorting to unusual measures to catch drivers using their phones at the wrong times.

In San Bernadino, California, cops are posing as panhandlers — sort of — in order to go after distracted drivers.

…plain clothes officers stood on highway off-ramps earlier this week holding cardboard signs that read “I am NOT homeless. SB Police looking for seatbelt/cell phone violations.” Unassuming drivers likely didn’t take notice and kept on texting or playing Candy Crush.

“During this detail, our undercover officers walked up to the windows of many vehicles unnoticed
by the drivers that were either talking or texting on their cell phones,” Chief Jarrod Burguan wrote in a press release.

The department says 33 citations were issued for drivers using their phones. So next time you think the person outside your window is looking for a ride or panhandling, maybe check before you return a text.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, officers in Marietta, Georgia, have disguised themselves as construction workers to spot drivers texting, tweeting, and playing games.

Most drivers paid no attention to the road crew working at Cobb Parkway at Roswell Road, but the crew wasn’t radioing in survey readings — they were busting distracted drivers.

“What we’ve done here is we’re able to put officers in the roads so we’re able to get close enough almost inside their cars so we can look down and see exactly what they’re doing on their phones,” said Marietta police Officer Nick Serkedakis.

Police say making good distracted driving cases are tough because it is often challenging to figure out exactly what the driver is doing in the car. This way, their cases are much stronger.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re stopped at a light, if you’re on a public thoroughfare and facing the phone we’re going to have a conversation with you,” Serkedakis said.

Many pulled over couldn’t believe they were getting busted while sitting at a light, so police had to spend time explaining the law to some skeptics.

“Anytime you’re in the road, in the roadway, you’re in gear and in control of the roadway. Even reading it falls under the code section as well,” one officer told a driver.

How effective are unorthodox methods like these? Are they worth the risk and extra effort? Would they stand up to a court challenge? Time will tell.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Blazej Lyjak