Riding With the NHP: No Excuses on Distracted Driving - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Riding With the NHP: No Excuses on Distracted Driving

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NHP troopers are now taking part in a zero-tolerance enforcement week focusing on one persistent and all-too-familiar problem: drivers talking and texting with hand-held phones. Riding in his unmarked patrol car, Sgt. John Schilling began his hunt, telling us, "I'm just looking for someone on their cell phone ."

He sees the same things we all have: too many drivers talking on the phone. His favorite hunting ground is South McCarren near south Virginia Street. From his vantage point, he looks for anyone coming off the freeway on their phone. He told us he's seen that behavior cause too many near-misses on the road, and too many accidents. As he put it, "There's really no reason why they wouldn't be able to avoid most collisions, and obviously there was something that distracted them."

It doesn't take long to find an offender. In the driver's seat of a dark Jeep 4x4, we spot a driver, phone at her ear going the other direction on south Virginia. After he can turn around and catch some lucky green lights, Schilling is suddenly right behind her as she pulls into the parking lot by Chili's. By now she's off the phone, but it's too late.

Getting out of his patrol car, he hears the female driver tell him she was just turning off some music. Schilling counters with, "Yeah, we were on the opposite side of you, right past you, and you were on the phone."

After a check for warrants or any other charges, Schilling writes out the ticket. She is a first-time offender, but it still was an expensive call…the fine is $50 but with fees can add up to $112. Worse, the call was from her husband who she was about to meet in the same parking lot just seconds later. Sgt. Schilling told us, "He called to let her know he was already in the parking lot. I said, ‘Did you explain to your husband that he's the reason you were talking?' She said yes."

He doesn't feel bad about giving her the ticket. He, and troopers like him, see the worst of what this behavior causes. And he's heard all the excuses. "They've got the cellphone at their ear when you're watching them, and it's, 'I didn't have it, I swear, I'll show you.' And it's not going to work this week."

They plan to write a lot of tickets. Any motorist observed talking on a hand-held phone will be cited with no excuses this week. The fine and fees for a second offense cost $192 dollars, with a third offense within 7 years at $350, not to mention demerit points and higher insurance costs.

The law still allows phone calls while driving…you just have to do it hands-free. Trooper Schilling doesn't understand why all the folks he sees don't just get the easier and much safer alternative that would only cost them 10 or 20 bucks.

It is hard to believe, a year and a half after the law took effect and following countless public service announcements and news stories, you still see drivers using hand held phones. Troopers will see it too this week…armed with their citation books.

-written by John Potter

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