WARWICK — With the $9,155 it was awarded from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s Office of Grants and Research, the Police Department plans to increase patrols during April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month and buy new speed enforcement equipment.
“Distracted drivers put everyone at risk, especially pedestrians and bicyclists,” Police Chief David Shoemaker said in a press release announcing the grant. “These funds will increase our traffic enforcement presence.”
In an interview, Shoemaker explained $5,195 of the award has been set aside to buy a hand-held radar unit and a portable pole-mounted radar speed limit sign, which can be moved to different locations in town as needed.
The Police Department applied for the traffic safety grants in the fall. The money has been awarded in connection with five public safety initiatives. Focuses are: impaired driving from Dec. 16, 2020 to Jan. 23, 2021; distracted driving from April 2 to April 18; Click It or Ticket from May 17 to May 31; speed enforcement from June 11 to June 27; and summer impaired driving from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6.
According to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Warwick Police Department will join other departments across the state, along with the Massachusetts State Police, in the national distracted driving enforcement campaign.
“One of the good things, if you can call it that, about not really having good cell service (in Warwick) is that people aren’t texting a lot, but we do see people referring to their device for GPS,” Shoemaker noted.
Relying on an improperly mounted phone or GPS can still be distracting and dangerous, especially if a driver is in an unfamiliar area.
“I just stopped someone this morning, and his excuse for speeding in excess of 25 miles per hour was his phone had lost service so his GPS didn’t tell him the speed limit,” Shoemaker said on Friday.
According to the Massachusetts Office of Grants and Research’s Highway Safety Division, vehicles without built-in GPS, Apple Car Play or Android Audio must be equipped with a phone mount on the dash or windshield for GPS navigation to fully comply with the hands-free law. For vehicles equipped with Bluetooth, a phone mount is all drivers need for GPS navigation.
All phone communication can be routed through the Bluetooth connection. Vehicles without Bluetooth or an auxiliary port may install a standalone hands-free device with built-in Bluetooth, speaker and microphone, or a Bluetooth adapter with an FM transmitter to use the vehicle’s speakers for audio. Other options include a single-ear earpiece with Bluetooth to pair with a phone for calls.
To fully comply with the law, using a voice assistant on the phone or through the vehicle’s infotainment system is required. Both Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant must be enabled and used to issue commands to place calls, listen to text messages and respond to text messages.
“Just drive,” Office of Grants and Research’s Highway Safety Division Director Jeff Larason in the press release. “The time you spend behind the wheel is, for most people, the most dangerous thing you’re likely to do today. Adding distractions, like your cellphone, is irresponsible and dangerous.”
The Office of Grants and Research offers these additional tips for drivers not using hands-free technology:
■Before driving, turn your phone off and put it out of reach.
■Set your iPhone to “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode.
■Let your friends and family know that you’ll be driving and can’t take their calls or texts.
■If you have to make a call or send a text, pull over.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.