A US policeman decided to take a rather unconventional approach to catching motorists who text while driving by dressing up as a homesless person.
Police corporal Patrick Robinson of the Montgomery County police department went to a street corner dressed in casual jeans, a hooded jumper and sunglasses and stood there with a cardboard sign.
Rather than ask for spare change, however, it read: “I am a Montgomery County police officer looking for cell phone texting violations.”
Upon seeing a distracted driver, Robinson would duck down behind the sign and radio his police friends waiting in squad cars further down the road, who would then pull the motorist over.
Montgomery Police issued nine warnings and 56 tickets to drivers who were not using a hands-free device of some sort, which have been deemed only slightly less dangerous than the act of using your phone at wheel.
The initiative is in response to a rise in the number of distracted driver-related deaths, a figure that hit 3,154 in 2013, according to official National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures. It is estimated there are 660,000 distracted drivers at any time in the US.
Sergeant Philip Chapin confirmed the problem is only getting worse: “We’re seeing more and more, as we pull cell phone records, that they’re distracted driver-related deaths because they will not put their phones down.”
Ignoring the slightly sneaky approach, the idea is actually quite clever seeing as homeless people tend to blend into the background. A good motorist should be constantly aware of their surroundings ─ a task impaired when trying to text a friend – so a good driver will have clocked the officer’s sign.
This is actually not the first use of a disguise or slightly unusual tactics to deter and catch naughty motorists. In the UK Scottish police used an empty police car as a crime deterrent, while four plain clothes officers in San Bernardino of California also dressed up as homeless people.
Such is the problem in the UK, police were told to start seizing mobile devices from motorists involved in a road traffic accident.