Illinois state troopers climb into big rigs to spot texting, crack down on distracted driving

CHICAGO — You wouldn't expect to see state police climb into big rigs as they head out on patrol, but the giant trucks are their latest tool in the fight against distracted driving.

The "Trooper in a Truck" program, an initiative between the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Trucking Association, aims to make the roads safer for vehicles of all sizes.

"As we’ve seen in the last 10 years, distracted driving in my opinion has overtaken alcohol," Master Sgt. Bryan Falat tells WGN.

From their higher vantage point, troopers are able to spot distracted drivers and radio the offending vehicle's information to waiting patrol cars. They then pull them over and issue a ticket.

More than 20 citations were issued Wednesday alone for cell phone violations, improper lane changes, seat belt faux pas and those following too closely. Troopers say this isn’t about money and tickets, it’s about education and safety. And maybe drivers will follow the rules not knowing who is in that truck driving next to them.

After all, officials say distracted driving is the leading cause of all crashes, killing 10 people every day.

"It's day and night that people are doing it, so many people are getting hurt so many people are dying because of it," Falat said.

In the year the program has been rolling, troopers have used semi trucks to patrol sections of I-57, I-55, I-70 and I-80, catching drivers doing things they shouldn’t do while behind the wheel. Their goal is more than handing out citations; they hope to change drivers' daily habits and ingrain the safest way to drive in their brains.

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