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Police get $40,000 for distracted driving program

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

The Paducah Police Department's "Heads Up Don't be In'TEXT'icated" program, which brings awareness to the dangers of distracted driving, will receive yet another infusion of funds, allowing the department to take the program to a greater number of high schools and civic organizations around the region and nation.

Assistant Police Chief Stacey Grimes told the Paducah City Commission on Tuesday that the department will receive a $40,000 grant from the Office of Highway Safety on Oct. 1. 

The police department will also receive $39,770 for selective traffic enforcement in high-collision areas. The money will pay for overtime and fuel for police cruisers for one year.

Grimes said the department has received the traffic enforcement grant each year for approximately 10 years.

The funds are allocated to the state transportation cabinet by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. No local match is required.

In May the police department received a $21,000 mini-grant, also from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, for the "Heads Up Don't be In'TEXT'icated" program. Since that time, the mini-grant has been increased from $21,000 to $24,000. 

The state and federal grants will be used to expand the program and allow for presentations outside the Paducah area.

The department has received a request to deliver the program to all Jacksonville, Florida, high schools, Grimes said.

"We're also receiving requests from the entire region," he said.

In April 2012, the first presentation was given at Paducah Tilghman High School to about 900 students. It has since been delivered to more than 4,000 people, including students, businesses, church and civic groups at no cost.

The program is an inspiration of the department and the family of Hillary Coltharp. Coltharp was involved in a crash in 2007 while attempting to respond to a text message. She survived, but would face near-impossible challenges such as relearning to swallow, eat and walk. As a symptom of the traumatic brain injury she suffered, Coltharp also has event amnesia, remembering nothing of her past before the accident.

"We couldn't do this (program) without Hillary," Grimes said. "Hillary drives the message home; she makes the impact.

"This is a program that will save lives.  I expect it to eventually get national attention," he added.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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