City's StreetSmart program hopes to reduce accidents

Portland police conducted their first enforcement mission targeting distracted drivers Wednesday night, and they came away with quite a haul.

Stationed at the intersection of Southwest Barbur Boulevard, Southwest Taylors Ferry Road and Southwest 41st Avenue from 6 to 7 p.m., police handed out 21 citations to drivers caught talking or texting with cell phones.

In addition, police cited nine drivers for moving violations who were not holding phones. One driver who failed a sobriety test was given a citation for driving under the influence.

The mission was part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation's summer StreetSmart campaign. The Southwest Portland intersection was chosen because it has a history of crashes, complaints about drivers turning illegal at red lights and complaints of drivers moving into bicycle lanes.

Dan Anderson, bureau of transportation spokesman, says that there will be two more distracted driver missions this summer, but the locations have not been disclosed.

'One of the reasons we're targeting distracted driving is (summer) is when kids are out of school and teenagers are driving,' Anderson says, adding that seven of the 10 deadliest days for teen driving are between May and August.

Anderson says national studies show that drivers younger than 20 are the most likely to drive distracted.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. One in five crashes that result in injury involves a distracted driver.

Portland police have issued 5,700 citations for cell phone use in vehicles since state law made talking and texting while driving illegal in January 2010.

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