Vt. State Police go undercover to bust distracted drivers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. State Police go undercover to bust distracted drivers

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We all know the dangers of texting and driving, but hundreds of drivers do it anyway. Investigative Reporter Jennifer Costa found out Vermont State Police are now going undercover to bust drivers breaking the hands-free law.

Transportation Area Maintenance Supervisor Chris Bearor catches drivers doing a lot of crazy things.

"They might be reading a book. I've seen makeup being put on, brushing their hair, shaving. I've seen it all," said Bearor.

But the single biggest distraction is cellphones. 

Bearor works for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Typically there are just a couple of cones between him and two tons of steel.

"It can be very scary at times," said Bearor.

Since Vermont's hands-free law went into effect last year, being a flagger has gotten more dangerous.

"People are looking down even more than before. Before it was up in the air, they were somewhat looking at what was going on. Now, they don't look up at all," said Dan Shepard, area maintenance supervisor. 

The average driver will travel the length of a football field without looking at the road just to send a single text. Shepard sees one out of every three drivers doing it. 

"They come on the workers and they don't even realize that one of them is outside of the cone a little bit and it's a close call," said Shepard. 

"People still aren't getting the message," said Lt. John Flannigan, Vermont State Police. 

Now that Vermont law bans all hand-held electronics, it's easier for police to catch drivers in the act.

"So, we're looking at some new strategies," said Flannigan. 

And there are more eyes watching than ever before.

"We've got another one. Green F-150. It's got a white tag. It's coming down now," said Sgt. Dave Sutton, Vt. State Police.

He looks like a flagger, but Sutton is really a spotter working undercover to crack down on texters. When he sees one, he radios ahead to a trooper waiting to make the stop.

Sgt. Paul Ravelin: When you drove by you had the cellphone up in your hand you were looking down at it. You're in a construction zone with people walking around. 

Driver: Can't argue with you, sir. 

State police are trying this strategy out in work zones across the state.

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