By HAYLEY HARMON
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Tennessee Highway Patrol is stepping up enforcement this week over the hot button issue of texting and driving.
Special patrols were out Tuesday in Knox County on the lookout for violators.
On day one of the two day sweep, they ticketed dozens of drivers.
6 News got to ride along with THP during the crackdown on what they call a deadly problem.
“People not looking, not paying attention to what they’re doing, not looking at the roadway,” said Sgt. Randall Martin with THP.
Troopers drove the front end of a tractor trailer Tuesday to scope out violators along I-40 in East Knox County.
“It’s marked up just like a highway patrol vehicle. It’s got lights. It’s got sirens,” said Martin.
Martin says drivers oftentimes don’t view it the same as they would a normal patrol car, so they’ll commit traffic violations right in front of it.
“They don’t really pay attention to the truck,” said Lt. Don Boshears of THP, who was driving the vehicle.
The tractor trailer enforcement has been used in other parts of the state, but this is the first time it’s being used in Knoxville.
It provides a better vantage point for officers.
“You can actually look down in the vehicle and see what’s going on inside the vehicle,” said Boshears.
When in a normal patrol car, it’s hard to be sure that someone is texting.
“You may think they’re texting, but if they’re holding it down low, you really can’t see it. But in this vehicle, obviously you can,” said Boshears.
During 6 News’ ride along with them, it took just a few minutes for them to ticket a number of texters.
“They’ll weave in the lane. They’re change their speed. They’ll speed up and then slow down,” said Boshears.
“Right there is one. White Toyota. He was driving with his left hand and had it in this hand and just had it right up here,” said Boshears, who radioed to other officers down the road in patrol cars to pull the driver over.
THP is using the program as a way to get drivers’ attention and get their eyes back on the road and off their phones.
“It puts awareness back where it belongs, and that’s on the road. Not on your cell phone,” said Martin. “If you’re not paying attention, you can’t see that vehicle changing lanes. You can’t see that vehicle pulling out in front of you. You can’t see traffic stopped in front of you so you have no time to react.”
The special enforcement continues through Wednesday, October 30 and will move around the county.
THP says the program has had a lot of success in other parts of the state, so they hope it cuts down on texting and driving in Knoxville as well.