Illinois State Police use semi trucks to crack down on distracted driving

MOLINE, III (KWQC) -- Illinois State Police are taking a new approach to catch drivers violating the hands-free law.

It’s a sunny Friday morning and traffic is steady on Interstate 74 in Moline.

“Driver is looking down, he's on his phone. The phone is in his right hand,” said Master Sergeant Ron Salier, Illinois State Police.

District 7 Illinois State Police troopers are in full force tracking down distracted drivers.

“The officers that are ahead of us in the squad cars are going to initiate traffic stops on the vehicles that I call out that I observe violations in,” said Master Sergeant Salier.

The troopers are getting a new vantage point by being in a semi as opposed to their squad cars. The initiative called “Trooper in a Truck” is a collaboration between the Illinois Trucking Association and Illinois State Police.

“We're looking at things from a completely different view. We are sitting up a lot higher, we are able to look down into the vehicles or straightly adjacent to the vehicles,”

The troopers aren't the only ones seeing the distractions. Joseph Newman, President of Newman Carriers says his company hauls hazmat and his drivers have seen how cars behave around trucks. This is the third year Newman has donated his semi-truck along with the fuel.

“Cars drifting over because they are texting or they are talking on the phone. It’s a daily occurrence,” said Joseph Newman, President of Newman Carriers.

During the ride along, we not only caught one person but two people using their phones.

“If people start to think that there may be troopers in a truck or in an IDOT vehicle or what have you. It may change people's driving habits and that's really what we are all about,” said Sergeant Nate Miller, Illinois State Police.

A concern that troopers say is getting serious.

“Distracted driving has now overtaken DUI driving as the most fatal action that takes place on the roadway,” said Trooper Jason Wilson, Illinois State Trooper.

At the end of the day, it's more than just giving out citations but saving lives.

“We want that compliance because ultimately it saves lives, not just ours, but yours and the motoring public,” said Sergeant Miller.

In total the troopers issued six texting tickets, three hands held violations, five motor carrier inspections, six Scott’s Law (Move Over) citations, and a few other tickets and warnings.

In Illinois, if you're ticketed for violating the hands-free law, a first offense is $164 and counts as a moving violation against your license and insurance depending on your car company. In Iowa, you can be pulled over for texting while driving, but you may talk on your phone or use it for GPS navigation if you're 18 or older.