Police Reports By Annette Christie Watervliet City Police Officer commended Watervliet Police Chief Timothy Sutherland has publicly commended Patrolman Joshua Allen for on-duty actions from his June 3, 2018 patrol. While Allen was on regular patrol on S. Main Street near I-94, he observed a motor vehicle that was driving erratically. He made a traffic stop of the vehicle that he believed was being driven by an intoxicated driver. Officer Allen made contact with the driver and performed an investigation based on his observations, including the driver being burned and saying things that did not make sense at the time. He learned that the driver was a person of interest in a homicide and arson in another state. Allen observed the man making utterances that became very important evidence in the homicide investigation, especially with being recorded with the squad car video. Allen made contact with Chief Sutherland and additional law enforcement resources to assist with the investigation. Allen then followed the ambulance that took the driver to a hospital in Kalamazoo. He remained with the driver until security was taken over by another agency. Chief Sutherland stated, “I commend you for seeing what may have been a minor traffic infraction and conducting your investigation in a manner that exceeds your years of experience and training.” The suspect is being held in the Cook County Jail in Illinois awaiting trial.
2019 U Drive, U Text, U Pay Campaign April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies will be joining forces across the country to intensify enforcement of state and local texting and distracted-driving laws, and to raise awareness about the dangers and legal implications of distracted driving. This annual campaign is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national U Drive, U Text, U Pay, high-visibility enforcement effort that runs from April 11 to April 15, 2019. According to NHTSA between 2012 and 2017 nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. In fact, there were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017. This means that nearly one-tenth of all fatal crashes that year were reported as distraction-affected. In Michigan in 2017, 20,115 traffic crashes were caused by a distracted driver. That’s up 57 percent from 2016 (12,788 distracted crashes). In 2017, there were 72 people killed in distracted driving traffic crashes in Michigan. That’s up 67 percent from 2016 (43 fatalities from distracted driving crashes). Drivers under the age of 20 accounted for 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes where a cell phone was being used. Over the years, millennials have become some of the biggest texting-while-driving offenders, also using their cell phones to talk and to scroll through social media while behind the wheel. According to NHTSA, young drivers 16 – 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers since 2007. In fact, in 2017, eight percent of people killed in teen (15 – 19) driving crashes died when teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crashes. Female drivers are most at-risk for being involved in a fatal crash involving a distracted driver. Every day, we ticket drivers who haven’t gotten the message that using their cell phones while driving puts every other road user at risk. We all know the dangers associated with distracted driving. Whether it’s eating and drinking behind the wheel, using GPS, talking to other vehicle passengers, or using the cell phone, it’s all dangerous when you’re driving. We are determined to impress upon those drivers: Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Violating Michigan’s Distracted Driving laws can be costly. Michigan’s Distracted Driving Law (257.602b Reading, typing, or sending text messages on communication devices prohibited) is punishable by a civil infraction citation with a $100 fine for the first offense, and a $200 fine for a second or subsequent offense. An analysis by the AAA Foundation of 2009 – 2012 data found that while more than eighty percent of drivers believed that it was completely unacceptable for a motorist to text behind the wheel, more than a third of those same drivers admitted to reading text messages while operating a motor vehicle themselves. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and illegal, but they do it anyway, and it puts others at risk,” said Sheriff L. Paul Bailey. “Beginning April 11, you will see increased law enforcement efforts, as officers will be stopping and ticketing anyone who is caught texting and driving. We are not trying to rack-up citations – we are trying to save lives. If you text and drive, you will pay.” The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and the NHTSA urge you to put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. If you need to text, then pull over and do not drive. If you’re driving, follow these steps for a phone-free experience: If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your vehicle in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text. Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages. Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving. Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put the cell phone out of reach in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination. When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting your phone away. Texting and driving is a selfish potentially deadly, and oftentimes, an illegal activity that could kill you, a loved one, a friend, or a stranger. If you see something, say something… If your friends text while driving, tell them to stop. Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down. Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. Break the cycle. Remember: U Drive, U Text, U Pay. For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.