LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Lexington Police Department is taking part in a nationwide campaign to curb texting and driving, by increasing patrols to stop and cite offending drivers.
From April 4-11, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is raising awareness about its campaign called "U Drive. U Text. U Pay."
As part of the initiative, Lexington Police will increase the number of cruisers with two officers inside, according to Lt. Chris Van Brackel.
"One officer is the passenger," Lt. Van Brackel said. "Their entire time is watching for texting drivers."
Lt. Van Brackel explained that there are three types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive.
"If you're texting and driving you're doing all three of those at the same time," Lt. Van Brackel said.
According to Kentucky statute, it is illegal to text and drive in the Commonwealth. For drivers under 18, "no use of personal communication devices is allowed while the vehicle is in motion."
"The younger folks tend to think that they can handle that divided attention so much better," said Van Brackel. "And they just can't."
Dom Tiberi has been trying to instill that point in young people for ten years.
Tiberi, a sports anchor at WBNS-10TV, has been an outspoken advocate for safe driving laws since 2013, when his daughter, Maria, 21, died in a car crash.
"Whatever she was doing she paid for it with her life," Tiberi said. "And that's what we're trying to avoid."
Tiberi said that while the investigation determined Maria was not on her phone at the time of the crash, the cause of the crash was attributed to "distracted driving."
He and his wife have founded the Maria Tiberi Foundation to promote distraction-free driving. Tiberi and WBNS-10TV also created Maria's Message, a campaign that has brought Tiberi to hundreds of high schools to speak to students about the dangers of distracted driving.
"I never wanted my daughter to be a statistic," Tiberi said. "And the bottom line is statistics all have names, they all have families, and we're all crying and we're all heartbroken."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people died in car crashes involving distracted drivers in 2020.