El Paso

El Paso Police cracking down on distracted drivers

El Paso Police will be out looking...

EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Police Department is on the lookout for drivers who aren't keeping their eyes on the road.

Distracted driving is the department's focus for the month of January. That includes drivers who are texting, using GPS, eating, smoking or grooming themselves.

"You have specialized units -- traffic units, motor units -- that are going to look more for that," El Paso motor police officer Marshall Brannon said. "We have state grants that allow us to work after hours on an overtime basis, looking just for distracted driving."

The police department issued nearly 11,000 citations for distracted driving in 2016 alone.

"When I talk to people and they give me the attitude that it's not a big deal, I let them know about the accidents that I've seen," Brannon said. "Just because someone wanted to be on the cell phone and didn't pay attention to the cars around them, the traffic lights around them. Then the accident and the carnage that happens because of it."

Alejandra Balderrama is a crossing guard at Franklin High School. She said she's had close calls because of distracted drivers. 

"Any distraction you can really think of, I see it out here. And in a school zone, that's what makes it more scary" Balderrama said. "I go out there, put the stop sign first, and people are texting and looking down."

Brannon said even a quick distraction can make a big difference while you're driving.

"If you're on the freeway and you're doing 60 miles per hour -- which is the freeway speed -- you're traveling at approximately 90 feet per second," Brannon said. "If you look at it that way, yes it may not seem like a long time by just glancing down, but distance wise it closes very quickly."

Scott White is policy director for Velopaso -- a bicylce-pedestrian coalition. For White, his bike is his car and that means he's experienced the dangers of distracted drivers first hand.

 "These are all little things if someone is not paying attention, it's really easy for somebody to get caught up in a crash," White said. "Those of us that aren't in cars, we don't have that suit of armor that 2,000 pounds of steel brings."

Brannon said police aren't trying to annoy the public with citations. He said the goal is always to keep people safe.

"You're sitting there driving a 3000 pound car," Brannon said. "How long does it take for a child to run out onto the street while you're glancing down looking at a text?"

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