Kudos to state and local police for the one-week effort the end of April to step up enforcement of the law banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.
Using a new law that enables police to stop drivers solely for texting while driving, State Police and local law enforcement greatly increased the number of tickets handed out in the second enhanced enforcement campaign late last month.
During the first Operation Hang Up campaign over the Thanksgiving holiday last fall, State Police ticketed more than 800 drivers. This time, 3,172 tickets were issued statewide in seven days in April to drivers who were seen texting while driving.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo thanked the State Police and local law enforcement agencies for their hard work in the fight against distracted driving.
But we agree with governor about what the figures tell us.
"The fact that State Police issued more than three thousand distracted driving tickets in seven days is a wake-up call for all of us: motorists must change their behaviors and stop putting themselves and others at risk," Gov. Cuomo said.''
The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee pays for Operation Hang Up campaigns through a federal grant. The money enables the State Police to supplement to conventional traffic safety and enforcement efforts with patrols focusing on distracted driving.
A new law the governor signed last year has helped law enforcement get distracted drivers off the road before they cause an accident because now police have the authority to stop motorists solely for using a handheld electronic devise. Before the change, drivers were ticketed only if they were stopped for another reason -after causing an accident because they were texting, for example.
By a very sobering measure, it is astounding that talking on the telephone and texting while driving are still so common. Research shows that drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. That is because the reaction time of drivers who are talking on the phone while driving is equivalent to the behavior of drunk drivers at the threshold of the legal limit of .08 BAC.
Texting is worse. Consider that when you are traveling at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for just five seconds, you car travels the distance of a football field.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 3,000 people died last year because of distracted driving.
It is an epidemic that is killing people.
If we all wanted to, we could put a stop to the killing today.