Truck drivers traveling on I-64 through New Kent, Virginia, are being warned if they’re caught using a hand-held cell phone while driving they risk a fine up to $2,700. And the odds of getting caught will increase beginning April 8.

Message boards stating “Phone Down. Just Drive” aimed at commercial truck drivers are part of a distracted driving awareness and enforcement campaign that will be launched next week. The campaign is being sponsored by Drive Smart Virginia in conjunction with the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

During a month-long enforcement effort, the New Kent Sheriff’s office will be targeting truckers in violation of federal regulations that prohibit the use of hand-held phones by commercial drivers.

“Our officers will be looking for any truck or bus driver reaching for, holding or dialing multiple buttons on their mobile phones while traveling on Interstate 64 in New Kent County,” said Sheriff F.W. “Wakie” Howard. “We see a large amount of trucks traveling in the area on their way to the ports and we want to make sure we are keeping our highways safe.”

An education campaign will feature variable message boards, billboards and CB outreach messages warning truckers of the dangers of distracted driving.

“This will be the first project of its kind in the nation to focus on enforcement of hand-held phone restrictions with truck and bus drivers,” said Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia. “Studies show that drivers that use hand-held devices are four times more likely to be in a crash serious enough to injure themselves. We hope to find that our education and enforcement efforts will reduce the number of drivers using hand-held mobile phones while operating a truck or bus.”

“This important, life-saving project serves as a reminder to truck and bus drivers that hand-held phone use is not only dangerous, it’s against the law,” said Anne Ferro, FMCSA Administrator.

The project’s effectiveness will be measured using observational surveys and the results will be announced this summer.