Local Law Enforcement Begins Another Crackdown - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Local Law Enforcement Begins Another Crackdown

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You think you see too many drivers on their phones? Lieutenant Eric Spratley with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office spots an average of 5: "All in one drive, just out on the freeway, getting off on Wells Avenue."

This month there will be plenty of tickets. In what's called a "Joining Forces" campaign, the Washoe County Sheriff's Office is teaming up with Reno Police, Sparks Police and the Nevada Highway Patrol for a crackdown. We saw officers from all 4 law enforcement agencies take off to start Wednesday's hunt. They are extra patrols, driving the streets just to spot yakking drivers.

We rode along with Lieutenant Spratley. From the start, what he began looking for was not just the driver holding the cell phone…but also for cars crossing their lanes. As he put it, "If they're not drunk drivers, they're distracted by talking on the cell phone."

How long did it take us? Not long at all. Stopped at a light on north McCarran, he caught an all-too familiar sight: "He's looking down….looking down….little delayed in pulling out. She's texting...what's he doing? Oh he's got his cellphone in his left hand."

The driver and passenger were both using cell phones. Their truck tooled down McCarran, not knowing Lt. Spratley was calling in a trooper to make the stop: "Approaching Wedekind for a black Tahoe that needs to be stopped..."

The truck turned into Pyramid Highway. Spratley slowed and gave his pursuit position to NHP Trooper Doug Hildebrand. With lights flashing, Hildebrand got the truck to pull over. Lieutenant Spratley approached the driver. His first words: "The reason I pulled you over is you are using your cell phone while you're operating your vehicle and that's illegal in the state of Nevada. May I see your drivers license please?"

The driver says he was forwarding an important email to his wife about her citizenship. Spratley has heard many excuses, some very reasonable…but they don't really work. The stakes are too high, too many people are getting hurt and killed. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, drivers using cell phones are 4 times as likely to get into an injury accident. Texting while driving creates 23 times the crash risk over those who are not distracted.

On this day, it's another ticket...and on to the next one. Lt. Spratley told us, "This is the first stop you've seen, and it won't take long until we see another one. And we'll just continue pulling them over and issuing citations."

Those tickets are expensive...up to $250, and you have to wait 7 years for that violation to drop from your record. The law dictates that it is a misdemeanor offense, not a moving violation.

Spratley did have some good news. From where he sits, it seems fewer drivers are on the phone…not just because of the awareness, but because more cars have built-in hands-free setups. But as cool as they are, they're not cure-alls. Even with hands free, there's still distraction. The best and safest solution is free…just don't text or call while driving. But he knows for some folks…that means a little extra willpower.

-written by John Potter

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