Lee’s Summit police cracking down on distracted driving to cut down on crashes

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Lee’s Summit police say distracted driving is causing way too many crashes on Highway 291.

So this month they started a high-traffic visibility program between Tudor Road and S.E. 5th Street on the highway in hopes of eliminating drivers' actions that lead to the crashes.

Highway 291 in Lee’s Summit connects Highway 50 to Interstate 470. But it’s also home to dozens of stores and restaurants, crossroads and traffic lights.

“There’s so many of them on this particular road. There’s at least six."  Marguerite Pulsipher said. “People are going to follow closely because they are going to try to get the lights.”

From March to August in the past three years there have been 187 crashes on Highway 291 between 5th Street and Tudor Road. About 80 percent of those crashes occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The number of crashes attributed to following too closely has increased each year to 54 percent. Add in failure to yield crashes, and they estimate as many as 60 percent of crashes on the stretch of highway are related to distracted driving.

“It’s all too common to be driving down the highway or the road and see someone texting. We are all guilty right?” Dionne Johnson said.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s as simple as allowing that extra time in between you and the car in front of you, putting down the cell phone, putting down the sandwich. Texting and driving is a huge issue across the country these days," Lee's Summit Police Community Interaction Officer Carmen Spaeth said.

Police in Missouri can’t ticket drivers over 21 for texting and driving. But Lee’s Summit is cracking down on other infractions drivers might commit while doing it.

In an average month, police might only write 350 tickets across the city. But so far in March on Highway 291, they’ve written 217 tickets and issued 247 warnings.

The crackdown and education effort will continue through August.

“I think it’s a good thing to do people will pay attention to what they are doing." Rebecca Davis said.

“It can wait. It’s not worth the hour it might delay you and the other driver because of the crash and it definitely is not worth the fatality that might come of that," Spaeth said.

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