Even the most casual observer can see many drivers using their cell phones while driving. In the mornings while letting children off at school, and again at afternoon pickup, parents are observed talking on phones held to their ear while driving. Is has seemed to this observer that two out of every 10 vehicles on Elm Street are being driven by operators illegally using their phones. Cell phone usage while driving has become a national -- and a New Canaan -- problem contributing to distracted driving and accidents.

We have experienced several very bad accidents in recent months, with some resulting in deaths. While we don't know that all of these incidents involved cell phones, we do know that a large percentage was caused by distracted drivers. From June through September of this year our police officers have stopped 150 drivers for driving while using their cell phones and have ticketed 66. From our own observations we know that these 150 drivers were only a small percentage of the drivers phoning or texting while driving.

The Police Commission has initiated a campaign to bring attention to this problem and to try to drastically reduce this epidemic of distracted drivers.

1. Our police officers are being asked to increase the number of stops and issued cell phone citations in an attempt to sensitize drivers that this is a dangerous activity.

2. We are asking our local print and electronic news media to report on the number of citations by the police for driving while phoning or texting including the names of the violators.

3. Connecticut State Rep. John Hetherington has volunteered to work with Police Capt. Leon Krolikowski for suggestions for enhancements to the current cell phone law. In addition, the police command staff is also working with the state's attorney to endorse plans to seize the phones of offenders during periods of intensive enforcement.

4. We will increase the police department patrols with more attention on distracted driving traffic enforcement even though this will involve some additional overtime expense.

This can work to change driver behavior. Years ago, even though cars were equipped with seat belts, driving without a seat belt was common place. Yet, through increase awareness of the danger in doing so, drivers realized it was in their best interest to buckle-up. We need your help. Please don't drive with your phone at your ear and don't try to read or respond to a text message until you pull over and stop.

You will be reading more about our plans to target distracted driving in the coming weeks and months and we ask your cooperation in setting a good example.