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Paducah Police share anti-text program

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The Paducah Police Department is going to share its campaign against texting while driving with as many people as it can.

Paducah Police Capt. Don Hodgson spoke Tuesday at the McCracken County Library after being invited by the Paducah Business and Professional Organization to present the department's "Heads Up, Don't be In'text'icated," program, which has already been presented to more than 4,000 people.

Earlier this year, the department received a $21,000 grant from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety to make available its program, which shares the story of Hillary Coltharp, a Paducah native whose life restarted after her convertible rolled over three times along Interstate 24 in 2007, when she was sending a text message.

Coltharp and longtime friend Gretchen Morgan spoke at Tuesday's program.

Since the wreck, Coltharp has undergone extensive rehabilitation and surgeries, including earlier in her recovery the temporary removal of one of her front temporal lobes, where much of a person's memory is stored. She has had to re-learn how to eat, speak and walk, and struggles with memory loss.

Coltharp said people should wait and remember to send whatever message they wanted to share later, after they're off the road. She wants people to share that message with their friends. 

"(Tell them) wait until you can pull over ... none of them have brain injuries ... they can remember," she said.

As a part of the grant the department received, Hodgson said the Paducah Police Department is looking at presenting the program about 25 times in the near future. Prior to the grant, he said the department received inquires about presenting the program in areas outside the McCracken County area, but it wasn't financially possible.

Coltharp said she plans to attend the programs.

Education is key to stopping distracted driving, as Hodgson pointed out that it's a difficult violation to catch people committing. Hodgson said it takes three officers to do stings on texting drivers. Then, police must be able to prove the driver was texting.

Hodgson said the campaign against texting while driving is gaining strength like early campaigns against drunk driving did years ago.

In 2013, he said, there were 94 collisions in Paducah that were caused by distracted driving, which resulted in 174 injuries and three deaths.

Organizations interesting in hosting the program presented by Hodgson and Morgan, who is an officer of the Paducah Police Department, can email Morgan at gmorgan@paducahky.gov.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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