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How Vermont cops catch distracted drivers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How Vermont cops catch distracted drivers

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

When you're sitting up high in a big rig, you can see a lot of what is happening on the road.

"Coffee in the hand... Expired inspection sticker," noted Cpl. Matt Nesto of the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles. "Cellphone in the lap. Did you see that one?"

Nesto says his perch in the backseat of a VTrans truck is the best vantage point to bust distracted drivers.

"In a VTrans truck, you would never expect a police officer to be riding next to you on the highway," Nesto said.

It didn't take long for Nesto to spot drivers on their phones.

"I'd like to go for the blatant violations, you know?" Nesto said.

He radios ahead to a trooper waiting to make the stop.

"He had a cellphone. He was looking at it in his hand," Nesto says into the radio.

"Ten-four," the trooper responds. "I've got him."

Operation SEE or Sharp Eyes Everywhere is part two of a statewide crackdown on texting behind the wheel. Earlier this month, troopers went undercover as flaggers to catch drivers texting in construction zones.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: Do people just not get the message to put down the phone?

Cpl. Matt Nesto: I think we are all slightly guilty of this at times. It's that constant need to be in constant touch with everything in the world that's going on around us.

He says 80 percent of drivers are doing the right thing. It's the other 20 percent police are worried about.

"I don't think they necessarily understand how serious it is until they are in that situation where you have a crash or you have a close call," Nesto said.

If you get caught violating the state's hands-free law, the fine will cost you between $160 and $500.

"So, it's pretty significant," Vt. State Tpr. Tom Howard said.

Police say the goal is not to jam up cash-strapped Vermonters, but they are trying to keep you from killing yourself or someone else.

"So there's a police officer in a commercial motor vehicle driving up and down the road and he saw you on your phone, so that's why we are having this conversation," Howard explains to a driver.

Police say most drivers own up to breaking the law.

Tpr. Tom Howard: So, you're saying you were just talking on it? You weren't texting?

Driver: No, I wasn't texting.

Tpr. Tom Howard: OK.

But for those who try to contest the ticket, this operation has you on camera.

"He's holding the phone right in his hand there... It's pretty good evidence when you can show the court the offense that took place," Nesto said. "So, I'm going to save that so we don't lose it."

A reminder this holiday season: no text or Facebook update is worth your life.

"We're not saying don't use your cellphone," Nesto said. "Just use it in a hands-free way."

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