Denver campaign targets distracted driving; Police chief stops woman holding cat while driving

June 11, 2015

KDVR Fox 31 News

Denver’s mayor and police chief unveiled a new campaign Thursday aimed at putting a stop to distracted driving. People are getting hurt, or worse, in totally preventable crashes and authorities want it to stop.The city’s new message is already on billboards: “When you’re distracted, who’s driving? Thumbs on the wheel.”

The Colorado State Patrol already launched its billboard campaign urging drivers to get their head out of their apps.

Even before the announcement, Denver Police Chief Robert White did his part to try to stop distracted driving. “I was on my way to work today and this young lady was driving … three kids in the backseat, and had a cat, that she was holding in her right arm while she was steering the wheel with her left arm,” he said.

It was a sight so absurd that the chief of police decided to pull her over. “And it takes a lot for me to make a traffic stop by the way.”

“It`s unfortunate that every year we have to do this sort of event to remind everyone,” Mayor Michael Hancock said.

Nationally, distracted driving was to blame for more than 5,000 traffic deaths last year. In Denver police wrote nearly 6,900 tickets.

Research from AAA continues to show hands free systems aren`t that effective. “In fact, they can be just as distracting as working with it hands on,” Wave Dreher of AAA Colorado said. “And don`t forget about the other distractions around you … everything from food in the car to your passengers.”

“Anything that causes you to have to listen, think and respond while you`re also trying to drive is very distracting,” Dreher said.

Marketing experts say there is a problem in that we’ve begun to tune out important messages like these. “They can be catchy, I mean, people may buzz about it. It may go viral, but nobody is going to put themselves in the shoes of the drivers,” Dr. Ali Besharat of the DU Daniels School of Business said.

Police are carrying little cards with them that might have a bigger impact. Officers, including Chief White, are handing them out during traffic stops.

“She took heed to that message. She put the cat in the backseat with the kids and put a seatbelt on the cat also,” White said.