Worcester Police to Suspend Ticketing for Distracted Driving for 1 Month; Instead Will Re-Educate Drivers about Hands-Free Law

August 17, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Casey Shea 508-368-7229

WORCESTER — For the next month, the Worcester Police Department will be not be ticketing for distracted driving and instead offering reminders to drivers about the Hands-Free Law and the dangers of distracted driving.

The City of Worcester, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, the Worcester Police Department, the Worcester Public Schools and the Safe Roads Alliance are re-launching the Eyes Up, Phones Down Worcester campaign, which encourages residents to avoid distracted and aggressive driving in order to reduce crashes and increase pedestrian safety. The campaign was originally launched in February 2020 in conjunction with the Hands-Free Law, but was paused due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“This campaign is about raising awareness and changing the behaviors of both drivers and pedestrians,” said Chief Steven M. Sargent.  “We want everyone from teens to grandparents to be more focused. Our officers will be out enforcing the law but we want to see compliance. Compliance will be our main measure of success with this campaign.”

As pandemic lockdowns lifted and travel increased, police citations for distracted driving have grown. Between January and April, there have been 68 times as many distracted driving citations issued in Massachusetts.

“Distracted driving is a community epidemic plaguing our roads and affecting us all. Avoiding distractions behind the wheel is about more than following the law. It is for the health and safety of yourself and others,” said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. “Life can change in the blink of an eye. We have to continue to educate the public.”

These groups will work together to spread this message on social media, through offering presentations, with public service announcements, and offering helpful resources to mitigate distracted driving.

“I applaud the District Attorney’s Office and the Worcester Police Department for their efforts to combat distracted driving, which too often leads to catastrophic results,” City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said. “We all have a role to play in keeping our streets safe for all those who use them, and this campaign is an invaluable tool in raising awareness. It is about saving lives and making sure we don’t have to hold one more memorial for someone whose life was lost as a result of distracted driving.”

“I want to thank DA Early and the Worcester Public Schools for partnering on this important issue,” said Mayor Joseph M. Petty.  “Distracted driving is an issue that affects us all; not just drivers and passengers but cyclists and pedestrians are all put at risk when someone uses their phones at the wheel.”

“The hardest part of my job is meeting with family members who have lost a loved one in a fatal crash,” said ADA Julie Karcasinas. “The amount of pain families go through hearing their loved one’s death could have been avoided if someone had just put their cellphone down is heartbreaking. Is there a text message so important that it is worth taking a life?”

As of August 2021, there have been 234 fatal crashes in Massachusetts.

“I will never get over the loss of my daughter,” said Alyson Lowell, mother of distracted driving victim, Gabriella Lowell. “Put down your phone and pay attention to the road because the reality of it is that you literally have another person’s life in your hands when you are behind the wheel.”

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