WORCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Worcester officials are restarting the "Eyes Up, Phones Down" program, which aims to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving.
The program was launched in February 2020, but was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference at city hall Tuesday with other city officials, District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. noted a sharp increase in instances of distracted driving this year as restrictions loosened and people returned to the road.
"In January of 2021, police issued 151 citations and warnings for distracted driving in Massachusetts," said Early. "That increased to 405 in February of 2021. It increased to 3,515 in March and it increased to 10,276 citations in the month of April."
Early also reported a total of 60,000 crashes in Massachusetts as of August this year, 206 of which were fatal.
As part of the campaign, Worcester police will not be issuing any tickets or citations for distracted driving for the next month as part of an effort to re-educate the public on the state’s hands-free driving law. Instead, officers will warn drivers and remind them of the law.
"We want everyone from teens to grandparents to be more focused," said Worcester Police Chief Steven M. Sargent. "Our officers will be out enforcing the law but we want to see compliance."
Alyson Lowell, whose 20-year-old daughter Gabriella “Gabby” Lowell was killed by a distracted driver in 2018, also spoke at the event, pleading with the public to pay attention while driving.
"I'll never get over the loss of my daughter," Lowell said. "She was killed because of a thumbs-up emoji. My heart aches every single second, every single day. But through the tragedy of losing Gabby so senselessly, I made a vow, not only to Gabby but to myself, that I will make it my life’s mission to educate individuals on the repercussions of distracted driving. I will be a voice to the victims, as well as their family members."