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UVM Students Push Public, Police On Distracted Driving Law

Taylor Dobbs
Students working with the group Students Against Distracted Driving (SADD) eyed passing drivers Wednesday to see if they were using their phones behind the wheel.

Vermont’s new ban on the use of handheld electronics while driving went into effect Oct. 1, and a group of UVM students is already spotting violators and advocating for citizens and police to be aware of the law.

“If you use your phone while you drive, you’re up to three times more likely  to get into an accident, according to research,” said Vivian Nicastro, a UVM senior with Students Against Distracted Driving (SADD).

And according to the UVM group’s own research, plenty of Vermonters are doing just that.

Senior Mashall Distel said the group conducted a survey on Sept. 10.

“We were located at seven different spots here in Burlington and we observed over 2,000 cars,” Distel said. “Of those 2,000 cars, we found that 243 people were actively texting or talking on the phone while driving, which is shocking.”

The group repeated the survey Wednesday, the first day the ban is in effect, to see if the number of people using their phones behind the wheel has changed at all. In the first 30 minutes of the new survey, students checking passing cars on Main Street in Burlington saw 10 drivers with their phones out.

Sydney Durand, another senior with the student group, said the new law is a good step, but it now needs buy-in from Vermonters outside the statehouse.

“It’s only going to be really effective if other Vermonters and law enforcement take it seriously as well,” she said.

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