Woonsocket police issue 22 tickets, NS police 14 for hands-free violations

Woonsocket police issue 22 tickets, NS police 14 for hands-free violations

WOONSOCKET – After a slow start, local police say they will be increasing enforcement of a new statewide law that bans any use of a cell phone or other mobile device while driving without the assistance of a hands-free system.

In Woonsocket, Lt. Thomas Calouro said police treated the first 20 days under the new law, from June 1 through June 20, as an “awareness blitz” during which officers pulled over drivers caught using their cell phones but issued only verbal warnings. During this time, officers issued 34 verbal warnings.

“The interaction was to educate the drivers of the new law and their responsibility under it,” said Calouro.

On June 21, officers began fully enforcing the law, issuing 22 citations between June 21 and July 9. According to the law, which went into effect June 1, a citation for distracted driving comes with a $100 fine for the first offense and $250 fine for any additional offense. Drivers may have the first fine waived in court if they can prove they’ve purchased a hands-free system.

As public awareness of the issue increases, Calouro said police will be tightening enforcement of the new law.

“We are ramping up enforcement as we go forward to include unmarked patrols,” he told The Breeze Monday. “It is our constant goal to produce measurable, sustainable results in traffic safety within the city of Woonsocket. Our entire department is focused on achieving the safest roadways possible.”

In North Smithfield, police issued 14 citations for violations of the hands-free law between June 1 and July 1. Officers were unable to provide information on how many verbal warnings were issued during this time.

Around northern Rhode Island, local police departments are taking varied approaches to enforcement of the new law. The Breeze reported last month that in Lincoln, police were offering a grace period with no formal tickets issued through the first month of the new law, while in Cumberland, police had issued 45 citations as of June 24. In North Providence, officers issued 34 tickets through June 17, more than three times the nine tickets issued in neighboring Pawtucket during this same period.