Dane Co. gets distracted driving grant to step up patrols - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane Co. gets distracted driving grant to step up patrols

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Distracted driving is the focus of a campaign starting this Memorial Day week.

Dane County Sheriff's Office is stepping up enforcement on the roads with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The DOT is giving the county $10,000 to put more deputies out on patrol starting this week and running through August. Deputies will target the Beltline between Middleton and Cottage Grove looking for people who aren't paying attention.

Sheriff Dave Mahoney says crashes caused by texting or other distractions just shouldn't happen.

"Unfortunately, our deputies, our troopers, our highway workers, our paramedics, our firefighters see first hand every day the devastation that can happen when drivers become distracted," says Mahoney. "Most of these accidents can be preventable if drivers were paying attention while they were behind the wheel of a vehicle."

Mahoney says he's also worried about construction crews this time of year so he hopes drivers can follow Wisconsin's "move over" law, changing lanes or slowing down when crews or officers are stopped on the side of the road.

David Pabst, DOT's Bureau of Transportation Safety director, says the state's goal is to have zero deaths on Wisconsin roads, and the DOT will continue campaigns to stop texting while driving, especially among teenagers.

"The young drivers are the ones that are texting and driving the most, it's a national epidemic," says Pabst. "It's amazing that in the U.S. every day of the year, eleven teenagers die in a texting-related crash."

Officials have gone into 30 schools already this year, educating students about the dangers of distracted driving and giving them a first-hand look at how even the safest driver can turn into a reckless one with a cell phone in their hand.

"It doesn't matter how good a driver you are or how good you are at multitasking, you just simply cannot do those things at the same time," says Nick Jarmusz, with AAA Wisconsin. "We use the simulator to show the real world effects of distraction such as texting on people's driving ability."

AAA predicts 700,000 drivers will hit the roads this Memorial Day weekend.

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