MARYLAND

Fairfax County police cruiser discourages impaired, distracted driving

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(WJLA) - Fairfax County police have unveiled a new traffic safety tool, a police cruiser completely covered in messages discouraging impaired and distracted driving along with other messages.

But will it make a difference? Department officials think so. In fact, they believe the 2013 Ford Taurus will save lives.

It's no different than any other police cruiser, but it's covered – from bumper to bumper – in safety messages.

Fairfax County Police Capt. Ed O’Carroll said, “What we’re hoping this cruiser does is remind folks that the police department means business.”

According to Fairfax County statistics, DUI arrests and distracted driving citations are up. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of tickets for texting while driving nearly tripled.

Fairfax County Police Officer Tawny Wright said, “In the county, we have far more traffic fatalities than we do homicides. It is nothing but roads and highways out here.”

The wrap cost $4,000 but taxpayers did not foot the bill. The money was donated by Transurban, which operates the 495 Express Lanes.

Transurban spokesperson Mike McGurk said, “This vehicle is just a reminder to be out there in our community to spread these sorts of messages, so when people come to that decision, they make the right one and they're out there driving safely.”

But many area drivers aren’t so sure the messaging campaign will make a difference. 

“I think people are gonna do what they want to do, regardless of any safety message,” said one driver.

Some believe more enforcement would be more effective. 

“Blanket the area one time and just make it difficult to drive when you're drinking,” suggested driver Bob Bailey.

But the police department said it is focused on enforcement and that this vehicle is just another proactive effort to prevent accidents, rather than only reacting to them.

“DUI-related crashes, even non-DUI fatalities – motor vehicles, they move at 40, 50, 70 miles per hour or more,” said Wright. “They cause a lot of damage, a lot of injury and a lot of sadness for family and friends.”

Department officials plan to display the vehicle at schools and community events. But it will also be used like any other police cruiser – all across the county, all hours of the day.

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