The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is giving $550,000 to the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts at $275,000 each, to train police officers to spot texting drivers more effectively and to develop media efforts to alert the public to texting and driving dangers.

"While it is relatively easier for law enforcement to determine illegal handheld cell phone use by observing the position of the phone at the driver's ear, the dangerous practice of texting while driving is often not as obvious," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving."

NHTSA stated that although 39 states have laws that ban texting, and 10 have laws that entirely prohibit the handheld use of cell phones while driving, programs in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York found it was more difficult to detect texting than a driver talking on a cell phone. Only 5% of tickets issued were for texting rather than talking on a cell phone while driving.

With that being the case, the grants announced by NHTSA are designed so Connecticut and Massachusetts can develop anti-texting enforcement protocols and techniques, such as using stationary patrols, spotters on overpasses on elevated roadways and roving patrols to test their effectiveness.

Each state will use these methods in four waves of what NHTSA calls “high-visibility enforcement activities” over a 24-month period. NHTSA stated it plans to document the results of these programs for other states to evaluate and potentially use.

Related article: 6 Keys to an Effective Cell Phone Policy