- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Farmington police may be the first in New Mexico to crack down on distracted officers who try to use a patrol computer while driving.

New software to prevent distracted driving has been installed in most of the department’s vehicles in the past month, the Daily Times in Farmington reported (https://bit.ly/1VeHWic).

It is designed to disable a patrol computer’s keyboard if the vehicle goes more than 20 mph, said police spokeswoman Georgette Allen, and the computer will be shut down entirely at speeds above 25 mph.

Allen said the software is used in the private sector to combat distracted driving, but believes the Farmington Police Department may be the first law enforcement agency in the state to use it.

“It is a proactive approach,” she said. “Instead of waiting for something to happen, a tragic accident, we would rather implement it now.”

Motor vehicle crashes were the cause of 39 percent of officer deaths in 2014, according to preliminary data from the FBI. A 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation said crashes have been the leading cause of on-duty officer deaths since the mid-1990s.

“This is a way of helping the officers be safer and focus on driving,” said Farmington police Chief Steve Hobbs, who thinks the safety measure may be used by police nationwide within a few years.

He also acknowledged that some officers may need a short adjustment period.

“Officers adjusted to having computers in the car over the past 10 years, and now they will adjust to this,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a big issue.”

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Information from: The Daily Times, https://www.daily-times.com

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