A town in Georgia is using undercover police officers disguised as road maintenance workers in a bid to clamp down on motorists using their phones while driving.
The Marietta Police Department has deployed some of its officers to carry out an alleged road survey this week. But in truth, their task is quite different.
“What we’ve done here is we’re able to put officers in the roads so we’re able to get close enough almost inside their cars so we can look down and see exactly what they’re doing on their phones,” explained Officer Nick Serkedakis, according to TheBlaze.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re stopped at a light, if you’re on a public thoroughfare and facing the phone we’re going to have a conversation with you,” he added.
The consequences for those caught could be a fine of up to $150 and one point on their driving license.
The police department tried this method once before, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“The whole thing started when we received data that fatalities were skyrocketing and a lack of seatbelts and texting were major contributors,” Serkedakis said, according to the Journal-Constitution. “So we, as a traffic unit, asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ At first we didn’t have an answer for it.”
The undercover operations appear to be working. Serkedakis said that in the two hours the officers spent on the road, they handed out 90 citations, half of which were for texting. Usually, it would take police a week to give out that number.
The police department’s approach has angered some drivers.
“This isn’t about your safety. It’s about revenue,” said Will Mullis, who added that it was unfair to people like him using an app for directions.
According to figures from the Governor’s Office for Highway Safety, distracted driving accidents caused three times as many injuries in 2014 than they did in 2009. In the same time period, fatalities in such accidents were up 73 percent.
Others are not so sure about the efficacy of the undercover cops.
“If the point is to deter people from doing it, have the officers out in force, in uniform,” attorney Esther Panitch said. “If the goal is to trap people, then go undercover.”