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Police to crack down on distracted driving in Wayne County as part of state research

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Posted at 8:53 AM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 08:53:53-04

(WXYZ) — Researchers from Michigan State University will be working with police agencies in Kent and Wayne counties to evaluate methods of enforcing distracted driving and cell phone violations.

During the two-week period, message signs will be used off-and-on to alert drivers to the enforcement. Researchers seek to determine if targeted safety messages have any measurable impact on driver behavior.

“Distracted driving, and cell phone use specifically, continue to be significant traffic safety concerns nationwide,” said Dr. Peter Savolainen, MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “This project aims to assess the effectiveness of high visibility enforcement, in combination with different types of messages that discourage cell phone use by drivers.”

Dynamic message signs are roadside signs with easily changeable electronic messages.

Participating law enforcement agencies are the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police (MSP) Second District, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Rapids Police Department, Wyoming Police Department, MSP Sixth District, and Kent County Sheriff’s Office. They will conduct up to 1,000 hours of distracted driving enforcement.

In Michigan during 2019, 70 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.

“Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous acts one can do behind the wheel,” said Michael L. Prince, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) director. “We hope this research will provide us with new strategies in combating this deadly problem.”

This research is part of a nationwide project sponsored by the National Safety Council. It will continue from April 5, 2021 through April 26, 2021.

Kent and Wayne counties were selected to participate because of their high number of fatal and serious injury crashes. According to the state, from 2016-2018, there were 188 fatal or serious injury distracted driving crashes in Wayne County and 128 in Kent County, the two highest in the state.