THP uses a new tool to catch distracted drivers

Law enforcement have a new tool to catch distracted drivers, and the officers behind the strategy blend in better than ever with traffic.

This week, the Tennessee Highway Patrol launched a new campaign to identify and cite drivers texting and driving. They're using the THP tractor trailer truck to get a higher, better look at what drivers are doing inside their vehicles.

"Improper lane changes, no seat belt, but the main focus is texting and driving," explained THP Sgt. Randall Martin. The truck is clearly marked with the THP logo.

"It's a patrol vehicle, it's in service. It's got its marking [and] lights, like our cars," said Sgt. Randall Martin. "But in this case we have two troopers -- one driving, one observing."

However, Sgt. Martin says several drivers never notice the truck coming up alongside them.

"People don't see this vehicle going down the road. It's one of the largest vehicles out on the road but they don't see it because they're distracted."

10News tagged along during a Tuesday afternoon drive along I-40 in East Knox County. Within just a few miles, Lt. Don Boshears and another THP officer spotted two different people texting on their phones. They alerted other troopers, who then pulled those drivers over with their THP cruisers.

"We just try to ride in the center lane, right at the speed limit for trucks, and just let them go by," said Lt. Boshears, before spotting the second offender.

There is only one THP tractor trailer, so the districts take turns and share. This week marks the first time Knoxville's District One has used the truck for this type of enforcement campaign.

Sgt. Martin said they hope it will get their message about the dangers of texting driving heard.

"Not only to enforce violations, but also to educate. It's not as easy as just writing a citation sometimes. People can take their citation and go on, but they have to learn something from that experience."

THP's truck campaign continues into Wednesday. They expect to have final enforcement numbers later this week.


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