Nearly 500 drivers were ticketed by State Police for distracted during the Fourth of July weekend.
The holiday weekend involved heightened enforcement of traffic laws by state police in both marked and unmarked patrol vehicles, with 486 drivers ticketed.
"Last week, I signed a law to institute tougher penalties for texting while driving and starting this past July 4 weekend, the State Police is now using new tools and tactics to enforce that law," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "I am hopeful that every driver who got a ticket for looking at their phone instead of the road gets the message that this reckless behavior won't be tolerated. Getting a ticket teaches young drivers this lesson the easy way no parent should have to experience the hard way."
Cuomo recently said State Police would have an increased presence on roads across the state this summer in order to crack down on texting-while-driving, beginning with ramped up enforcement over the holiday weekend. Part of the increased enforcement involved the use of Concealed Identify Traffic Enforcement vehicles to more easily identify motorists who are texting and driving. CITE vehicles are built on higher than average platforms that allow law enforcement officials greater ability to see into other vehicles and detect individuals in the process of sending or viewing text messages. They are also unmarked, which allows them to blend into regular traffic.
Although the risks of texting-while-driving are well documented, the problem remains widespread on roads in New York state and across the nation. The number of accidents in the U.S. caused by cellphone use has tripled over the past seven years. In New York state there was a 143 percent increase in cellphone-related accidents between 2005 and 2011 by comparison, alcohol-related crashes actually decreased by 18 percent over the same period. Among teenagers, 43 percent readily admit to texting behind the wheel.
Cuomo and the state Legislature strengthened New York's distracted driving laws and increased enforcement by state law enforcement officials. A bill signed by Cuomo earlier this year instituted new license suspension periods for drivers with probationary and junior licenses who text and drive. Legislation signed by Cuomo in 2011 also made using a handheld electronic device a primary offense, which gave law enforcement officials the power to stop motorists solely for texting. For a state-by-state comparison of cellphone laws, visit www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone-laws.html.
In addition to reforming New York's distracted driving laws, Cuomo has also directed the Department of Motor Vehicles to strengthen penalties for distracted driving by raising the number of points issued against a driver's license. Since Cuomo took office, the points issued for distracted driving have increased from two to five.