ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – You may have noticed extra state troopers along I-95, I-10 and I-75.
They’re working to make Northeast Florida’s most dangerous roads safer through this week’s statewide Operation Safe DRIVE: Distracted Reckless Impaired Visibility Enforcement.
Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol are teaming up with local law enforcement, saying they hope it saves lives.
Dashboard camera video from Feb. 27 showed a close call: a state trooper on the side of Jacksonville’s J. Turner Butler Boulevard sideswiped. Thankfully, there were no injuries, but the cruiser had serious front-end damage. It’s a prime example why law enforcement is looking for distracted, reckless and impaired drivers.
Close call:— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) March 3, 2021
A driver hit a state trooper's cruiser on side of Jacksonville's JTB. Thankfully, no one hurt.
It's another reason why the Florida Highway Patrol is running Operation Safe DRIVE: Distracted Reckless Impaired Visibility Enforcement.
Ride along on @wjxt4 at 5:30 & 6. pic.twitter.com/fUscfGmkhS
“As I come up, I start looking at signs like what his hands are doing, and then I’ll pull up alongside, and that’s when I can really look in the car,” Trooper Larry Favors said Wednesday as he took News4Jax along I-95 in his patrol car for the special detail.
But troopers have another, less convention tool in their arsenal: a semitruck.
“We seized this truck years ago from a drug dealer, believe it or not,” said Sgt. Casey Moore, who was driving the tractor-trailer with Sgt. Jason Godwin as a spotter. The pair used the height of the cab to look into other truck cabs. It also catches unsuspecting distracted drivers off guard.
The truck is painted with FHP colors and has a logo on the doors, but many don’t notice it until the blue lights come on in their rearview mirror.
The troopers said they pulled over a truck driver for talking on his phone, which you can’t do with a commercial driver’s license. He claimed he didn’t, but troopers said they had pictures, evidence that showed otherwise.
Another team caught a truck driver tailgating a van with just feet in between, according to FHP.
“If we can stop people from driving distracted, I like to think we’ve done something good,” Moore said.
Violations could be expensive. Some are $500 for a first infraction. However, according to troopers, it’s more than writing tickets, it’s a teaching opportunity.
Many times, their presence is enough to deter distracted driving. Troopers noted that many truck drivers communicate about police checkpoints and operations on citizens band radio, which keeps others from offending.
Along the stretch of I-95 in St. Johns County, 24 people have been killed in crashes, many involving tractor-trailers, News4Jax records show.
“That distraction, just that couple of seconds, could cost somebody their lives,” Favors said.
These patrolmen and patrolwomen are reminding drivers safety on the road is everyone’s responsibility.
FHP also has an air unit with planes watching from above and there are undercover cars, so troopers warn they could be anywhere.