According to an ABC News report, San Berardino undercover police officers are taking a more creative approach to catching distracted drivers.
On July 15, four plain-clothed officers with the San Bernardino Police Department camped out along a California highway off-ramp holding signs in an attempt to catch distracted drivers.
Posing as panhandlers as part of the undercover sting, one of the officers held a cardboard sign that read, “I am NOT homeless. SB Police looking for seatbelt/cell phone violations.” Apparently, the scheme worked.
In statements made by the police, the officers were actually able to walk right up to some of the cars unnoticed because the drivers were too busy either texting or talking on their cell phones.
“I made 13-14 stops and out of all of them, only one woman said she noticed and read the sign, but by that time it was too late,” police detective Devin Peck told ABC News today.
Peck said that he was one of the uniformed motorcycle officers that were waiting nearby for a signal from the plain-clothed officers.
“That just goes to show how distracting a cell phone really is in the hands of a driver,” he added.
The NY Daily News reported that the four-hour operation led to 50 total vehicle stops, which included 33 for cell phone violations and 15 seat belt violations. Five cars were also impounded after police discovered the driver was either unlicensed or driving on a suspended license.
In regards to the cell phone violations, it is illegal to text while driving in California, and actual calls must be made on a hands-free device.
The goal of the operation wasn’t one of deceit. The San Bernardino Police Department said that the goal was simply to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and the importance of wearing a seatbelt.
“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,” police said in a statement. “Those calls and messages can wait until you arrive at your destination and are not worth risking the life of yourself or those around you while driving.”
Officer Peck added, “I got the idea initially from reading about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police trying it several months ago.”
“It was much more successful than we anticipated.”