FAIRFIELD — The police department is stepping up its efforts to stop distracted driving.

The department is joining the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a national distracted driving campaign dubbed “U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” said Fairfield Police Lt. Antonio Granata. The high visibility enforcement effort takes place from Oct. 8-12.

“The goal of the campaign is to step up enforcement efforts to catch distracted, texting drivers and enforce distracted driving laws,” Granata said.

In practice, Granata said, this means the department’s traffic team will be strategically placed in several areas of town, with a focus on morning and evening hours, solely looking for distracted drivers. He noted that violating Connecticut’s distracted driving laws can be costly.

“The fine for the first offense is $150,” Granata said. “The fine for the second offense is $300. The fine for the third, and subsequent, offenses is $500.”

Granata said distracted driving, especially cell phone use, has become one of the nation’s leading causes of vehicle crashes.

“According to NHTSA, between 2012 and 2018, nearly 23,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver,” he said. “In fact, there were 2,841 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018.”

While Granata said those deaths represent a 12 percent decrease in distracted driving fatalities from 2017, there is more work to be done.

“There are still thousands of preventable deaths happening on our roads every year,” he said. “Fairfield Police and (the) NHTSA urge you to put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. If you need to text, then pull over and do not drive while doing so.”

Granata also suggested allowing a passenger to respond to texts or phone calls, setting cell phones to Do Not Disturb as well as putting cell phones out of reach while driving.

“Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal,” he said. “Break the cycle. Remember: U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

Joshua.LaBella@hearstmediact.com