Saginaw County sheriff cracks down on texting while driving - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Saginaw County sheriff cracks down on texting while driving

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(11/20/12) - It's a common sight on pretty much any roadway - a driver glancing down, eyes off the road, most likely looking at a smartphone, perhaps dialing a number, which is not against the law, or texting, which is a civil infraction with a fine of $100 and $200 for additional violations.

"The burden of proof lies with law enforcement," said Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel.

Federspiel, starting his second term, says he is hearing more complaints about one issue from residents.

"One of their greatest fears is being injured in a car accident due to people driving and texting," he said.

So the sheriff has changed the look of his now-famous Mustang, the one that once featured the slogan "taken from a drug dealer". Now, one side has no markings at all, making it easier to pull up alongside and then crack down on drivers who text.

"It's extremely dangerous. No one would advocate putting a blind fold on for a few seconds while they are driving down the road, or closing their eyes, but in essence, that is what they are doing," he said.

He warns he's watching for other forms of distracted driving too.

"We had someone recently who was driving, steering with his knees, and they were Facebooking. They were communicating on Facebook, and all over the road, and that person was issued a citation for reckless driving," he said.

Reckless driving carries much harsher penalties than texting while driving - six points on your record and possible hefty fines. And the sheriff isn't the only one watching; apparently other drivers are, too.

We weren't with the sheriff long, before he found a distracted driver.

"There she goes on the yellow again," Federspiel said.

That driver heard that sound we all dread - sirens.

The woman admitted she was looking at her smartphone, but wasn't texting, so she gets a warning.

"I believe you weren't texting, but just make sure you keep your eyes on the road at all time," Federspiel told her.

It's a warning other drivers should heed.

"Moving into 2013, and even the Christmas holiday season, we are going to be approaching that philosophy more and more," Federspiel said.

The Michigan State Police is also cracking down on texting and driving, even looking at the possibility of putting troopers in unmarked cars.

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