Hastings police look to stem tide of crashes in area

HASTINGS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Hastings Police Chief is looking for solutions after the number of traffic crashes doubles over the past year.

Chief Jeff Pratt says he thinks the spike is the result of distracted driving, and Newschannel 3 joined him to learn more about how the chief plans to bring those numbers down.

The main street in Hastings is always pretty busy--right now they have Summerfest going on, so there's even more traffic in town--but Chief Pratt says the problem is that too many people aren't keeping their eyes on the road like they should be.

This summer, Chief Pratt took a look at the number of traffic crashes in the city--and what he found surprised him.

"In June, they were nearly double," he said.

Pratt says by June of last year, there were about 60 crashes in the city; by June of this year there were about 100.

Pratt is pointing the finger at distracted drivers.

"You have texting, you have just talking on your phone, you have people grooming just on the way to work, reading a book, reading a map or even the GPS system can distract a person," he explained.

And Hastings drivers tell us they're seeing it too.

"I notice a lot of them driving down the road and texting at the same time," one said.

Chief Pratt says he's now encouraging his officers to look carefully for distracted drivers; he says they'll also focus on checking phones when they respond to crashes.

"I'm trying to put added emphasis on that with our officers, we need to do a better job of doing that and we need to do a better job of educating the people too," he said.

He encourages parents to talk to young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

"If you take your eyes off the road for just 5 seconds at 55 miles an hour, you travel approximately the length of a football field, so 100 yards and you don't have your eyes on the road; a lot of things can happen," Pratt explained.

But he says the solution could be a simple one.

"If you could just make the pledge to turn off your phone once you turn on your car, that would help a lot," he said.

Some drivers say they don't think it's all distracted drivers--some tell us its a problem with the flow of traffic.