The man who appeared to be homeless and who was carrying a cardboard sign while standing Tuesday morning in the median near Winston Drive and River Road in Bethesda was actually Montgomery County police Cpl. Patrick Robinson.
Robinson and about a half dozen other officers were part of an operation looking for motorists on southbound River Road who were illegally using a cell phone or didn’t have their seatbelts fastened.
Robinson served as the lookout who identified violators and then described their vehicles or provided license plate numbers to other officers stationed about a quarter mile away. Those officers ordered the drivers to pull over and then issued citations.
“I’ve spotted over 30 in an hour,” Robinson said as he stood on the side of the road during the two-hour operation.
He said about 20 percent of the drivers on River Road Tuesday morning were distracted by some device, although the percentage of drivers not wearing seatbelts was lower than that. The officer added that police have been doing similar stops weekly in the county.
Officers wait for vehicles identified by the spotter to pull over and issue citations to (left) and an officer talking with a driver (right). Credit: Andrew Metcalf
Last week, Capt. David Falcinelli, commander of the Bethesda-based 2nd District, said police have conducted two similar details at the River Road intersection and each resulted in about 50 tickets being issued. Fines for using a handheld device while driving in Maryland range from $83 to $160 while the fine for texting while driving is $70 and one point on a driver’s license.
Police said after the operation ended at 9:30 a.m. that they issued 56 tickets and 22 warnings to drivers. Thirty-one tickets and nine warnings were issued for using a handheld phone while driving, four tickets and four warnings for texting and 17 tickets and seven warnings for driving on the shoulder. Police also issued one negligent driving citation, one ticket and two warnings for driving without a license, one ticket for failure to display registration and one ticket for a plate cover.
Traffic on southbound River Road heading toward the police operation was backed up to the I-495 interchange, although it wasn’t clear if the backup was caused by the operation or due to rush hour traffic volume.
Cars backed up on southbound River Road heading toward the police operation Tuesday (left) and a Google Maps traffic image showing backups south of I-495 approaching the operation at the intersection of Goldsboro and River roads.