Sting operation held on Highway 183 to find drivers using cell phones illegally

Austin Police Officers cracked down on drivers they caught texting or talking on their phones. They hit a new highway at a new time for their sting operation. This was the first time APD did a sting operation during an evening commute, and they were out on Highway 183.

APD, TX Dot and Cap Metro all teamed up for the operation that looks for drivers using their cell phones illegally. Sgt. Michael Barger is with the Austin Police Department, “I have officers on the bus who will observe people driving their vehicle when they see somebody that's holding a cell phone, texting, talking  on their cell phone, using their GPS, playing a video game, whatever they  happen to be doing on their electronic  device, they call that out.”  Motorcycle officers are staged along the road receive those calls, and then it's ticket time. “We'd obviously like people not to get tickets, we want this to be a notice to them that we are out there so that they won't get tickets,” Sgt. Barger said.

Sgt. Barger said there are a few exceptions to the rules. If you're stopped at a light or a stop sign you're fine, but if you're stopped in rush hour traffic on the highway don't touch that phone, it’s still a violation.

Sgt. Barger said the most common offender is not one you may think, it's actually the 25+ age group, “The  younger generation has actually been taught from the moment they start learning to how to drive, that using a cell phone is not appropriate, so the  younger generation is not doing it as much as the older generations,” he said.

All of those working the operation said their goal is to raise awareness with everyone to the dangers of distracted driving. “If you're actually in the act of texting and driving, you're three times more likely to cause a crash, and it's dangerous enough to, it causes people their life and serious injuries,” Sgt. Barger said.

The officers working the sting operation are actually volunteering and working overtime to help, so they are not being pulled away from regular APD operations. The money is coming from a federal grant.