It's a message you could see the next time you drive down Interstate 64. By the end of the week, a series of billboards will be up – a warning to the truck and bus drivers you share the road with.
Drive Smart Virginia is focusing on I-64 in New Kent County. It's a big link between Richmond and the Hampton Roads area that sees a lot of commercial truck and bus traffic. Deputies will be looking out for truckers on their phones.
Every time Douglass Croson climbs into his truck, safety is the first thing on his mind. When he shuts his door, his headset goes on.
"Not only is it a federal regulation, it's just common sense," said Croson. "It's just a good practice for a safe driver."
Hands-free is legal, but any truck driver talking or texting on a cell phone while on the road is treading on thin ice. Billboards urging truck drivers to put the phone down are going up along I-64 between Richmond and Hampton Roads. It's a heavily traveled area for truck drivers like Croson who is headed to Virginia Beach.
"It will be by direct observation," said New Kent County Chief Deputy Joe McLaughlin. "They will have to observe the operator actually using or dialing that device, whether it's to their head or whether it's in their hands, making the call."
Chief Deputy McLaughlin says the message will also come over the CB radios - never a bad reminder for drivers like Croson who logs up to 50 hours a week on the road.
"When you're driving a truck like this you need to be aware of your situation all the time," said Croson. "You need to use all of your energy what people are going to do around you."
He hopes this message - not to type messages while driving - goes both ways for every driver out here.
"Absolutely, all the time," Croson added. "I probably see people talking or texting on the phone 40, 50 to 60 times a day."
A truck driver who doesn't put the phone down while driving could face a fine up to $2,700.
All of the bill-boards should be up by April 8th. The safety and education campaign will run about two weeks in April and two weeks in May.
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