CHICAGO - Distracted drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers, killing thousands of people every year.
However, they don't have the same stigma. That is about to change in Cook County.
Officials plan to target distracted drivers in a huge effort to change behaviors behind the wheel.
In the last three years, Cook County Sheriff's Police have recorded almost 300 crashes from distracted driving. Two of them were fatal.
Starting Wednesday, the sheriff is cracking down on distracted drivers with a new enforcement program called Operation Deadly Distractions.
“We're not going to ticket our way out of this problem,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. “It's going to be because people say, ‘we got to stop, this is insane.’"
If you think intersections are starting to feel more like "texting zones," you're not alone.
“Everyone in the world pulls up to every intersection and sees the people on either side of them with their phones out, texting or talking,” said Sheriff Dart. “We all know that's going on. It is horrifically dangerous conduct and the stats show that.”
Sheriff Dart is launching a new crackdown, with teams of sheriff's police picking spots to actively stop and ticket drivers seen talking or texting while driving.
“We’re also going to use spotters at different points, too,” said Sheriff Dart. “People with binoculars at different locations where they're going to be watching for folks who are driving and then they're going to radio ahead to someone to say ‘listen, that red Toyota, pull it over, they're texting right now.’"
Distracted drivers killed more than 3,000 Americans in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Still, Dart says distracted driving doesn't carry the same social stigma as drunk driving.
“We just have to change these behaviors, and I know it's going to be hard, but we have to do it,” he said.
The sheriff's office has already issued 150 tickets this week.
Operation Deadly Distractions is in effect for the next two to three weeks.