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August 10. 2012 7:14PM

Rochester man charged with texting while driving


This Ford F-150 knocked down a utility pole along Chestnut Hill Road, which disrupted power and closed the road for several hours in Rochester Thursday night. (Courtesy)

ROCHESTER — Police warn area residents to keep their eyes on the road after an accident Thursday night closed Chestnut Hill Road for eight hours and knocked out power. Police say they believe the driver was texting when he lost control of the vehicle.

Police, firefighters and emergency personnel responded around 9:41 p.m. after a southbound 2010 Ford F150, driven by Jason Strong, 36, of Rochester, struck a utility pole, which fell across Chestnut Hill Road and disrupted power to the area.

Police determined Strong was texting while driving, which distracted him and led to the crash. As a result, Strong was issued a summons for negligent driving, which could result in a maximum fine of $500.

While it is illegal to text while driving, police stress that everyone should pay attention while driving.

“We get very few texting while driving cases that result in negligent driving charges,” Rochester Police Capt. Paul Toussaint said.

“The majority of our accidents are caused by some form of driver inattention/distraction. This can range from eating, changing radio stations, just not paying attention, etc.,” Toussaint said in the e-mail.

“Distracted driving is the cause for a lot of crashes in Dover,” Dover Police Capt. William Breault said, adding that it is difficult to prove that texting while driving caused an accident.

“It's somewhat hard to enforce,” Breault said, and is not a matter of having more officers or creating more laws.

Breault cited one case where three children crossing a street in Dover last January were struck by a woman who was texting while driving. The children, who all recovered from their injuries, were using a crosswalk to get to a bus stop when the accident occurred.

As a result, Tina Conlon, 35, pleaded guilty to negligent driving and failing to yield for pedestrians in a crosswalk, which are both violations and resulted in a $500 fine for each count. She also lost her license for 30 days, according to Breault.

“It's more of a younger crowd, but let's face it, everyone has cellphones,” Breault said.

Strong, who was evaluated by paramedics from Frisbie Memorial Hospital, refused treatment even though the pickup truck sustained substantial damage. It was towed from the scene, according to police.

As a result of the crash, Chestnut Hill Road was closed for about eight hours as crews from PSNH, Fairpoint and Metrocast replaced the damaged pole and utilities, according to police.

About 375 PSNH customers lost power. Crews responded at 9:45 p.m., replaced a damaged transformer and restored power to all but one customer by 12:25 a.m. The final customer had electricity returned around 5:40 a.m., according to PSNH spokesman Martin Murray.

jquinn@newstote.com


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