Authorities in Maine say car crashes are up significantly this year.
According to Maine State Police Sgt. Daniel Hanson, overall car crashes in the state are up 30% from 2021.
In April, both Maine State Police and the state Bureau of Highway Safety are recognizing Distracted Driving Awareness Month, noting that recent data indicates it is a worsening problem in the state. They are urging drivers to put down their phones while they're operating vehicles.
"Specifically, over the last three years, we've looked at crashes associated with 16- to 19-year-old drivers, and we've seen there's a huge trend towards distracted driving crashes and speed-related crashes," said Hanson. "Here in Maine, we expect 45 people will die as a result of distracted driving crashes this year."
Hanson added that the number may be even higher because of the initial high number of overall crashes so far in 2022.
More Maine news
For Hanson, the issue of distracted driving is a personal one. He was involved in an alleged distracted driving incident which he was captured on a dashboard camera during a traffic stop.
"Every time I see that video, it's terrifying all over again," he said. "I thought I was in a safe spot, broad daylight, good visibility, I should've been safer, there's no reason for it."
As part of the awareness month, Maine State Police have specifically assigned some troopers to focus on looking for distracted drivers.