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NY Conducts "Texting While Driving" Clampdown

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the start of a new summer crackdown by the New York State Police on distracted driving. The up to $1 million effort will consist of increased enforcement and patrols, particularly through undercover operations using unmarked State Police SUVs to catch distracted drivers. This new campaign builds on two major efforts initiated by the Governor earlier this year to crack down on distracted driving – increasing the penalty for distracted driving from three to five points on a driver’s license and signing his legislation to increase license suspension and revocation periods for distracted driving on young and new drivers.

"Texting-while-driving is a dangerous practice that will not to be tolerated on New York's roads and highways," Governor Cuomo said. "Today's announcement on the eve of one of the busiest weekends of the year for travelers will ensure that New York State remains a safe place for drivers not only over the holiday weekend but throughout the summer and beyond. There is no excuse for distracted driving, and with this operation New Yorkers can be sure that the State Police are watching the road, even if other drivers are not."

This operation brings a significant increase in undercover enforcement operations on roads and highways throughout the state. Undercover patrol operations have been particularly effective at identifying and ticketing instances of texting-while-driving, and these additional unmarked patrols will have a considerable impact on the increased enforcement of vehicle and traffic regulations across the state. State Police will use Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles as part of the operation in order to more easily identify motorists who are texting while driving. CITE vehicles are specifically designed on higher than average platforms, allowing officers greater ability to see into other vehicles and detect individuals in the process of sending text messages. The State Police fleet of CITE vehicles are unmarked and come in a variety of colors to ensure that they blend in with traffic on the road. They are also equipped with hidden high intensity emergency lights.

In New York State, one in five crashes is a result of distracted driving. Last year there were over 30,000 tickets issued in New York State for texting-while-driving – a 234% increase from 2011. By comparison, there were fewer than 44,000 DWI/DWAI arrests in New York State in 2012, which represents a 4% decrease from 2011. The dangers of texting-while-driving are only amplified when the practice is this commonplace. This operation’s focus on undercover enforcement will send a strong message to motorists across New York State that driving and using a hand-held device simply do not mix.

High profile enforcement activities are also taking place in every region of the state, having begun on Saturday, June 29, 2013 and continuing through Sunday, July 7, 2013. Enforcement activities will focus on safety restraint, distracted driving, speed details, move over law and motorcycle safety. DWI checkpoints and underage drinking enforcement will also take place statewide beginning on Thursday, July 4 through Sunday, July 7.

"New York State Police will be enforcing New York vehicle and traffic laws with the use of several traffic safety details during the busy holiday period in an effort to keep everyone safe on our roadways," said State Police Superintendent, Joseph A. D'Amico. "In addition to DWI checkpoints, speed enforcement details, move over law and motorcycle safety details, state police will be identifying distracted drivers. This new enforcement campaign the Governor announced today, will help us ensure the safety of all those who use New York’s highways and encourage drivers to obey the rules of the road, use caution and drive safely."

AAA Legislative Committee Chairman John Corlett said, “Governor Cuomo rightly recognizes that texting-while-driving is an epidemic on our roads across the State of New York and nationwide. He has been a steadfast champion of new laws and enforcement efforts to stop distracted driving. His commitment of $1 million to enhance law enforcement operations and public awareness campaigns will help catch bad drivers and spread the word about the dangers of texting-while-driving. This will send a message to all drivers to put their phones down and keep their eyes on the road. We commend the Governor’s dedication to this important issue to make New York’s highways and roads safer for our motorists.”

This strengthened enforcement push comes in advance of the Independence Day holiday, which is traditionally one of the peak travel periods of the year. The additional funding for this operation will enable more State Troopers to actively monitor roadways to enforce New York vehicle and traffic laws, not only during peak holidays but throughout the entire summer.

Last year, State Police issued 3,210 vehicle and traffic tickets during this holiday period including 1,132 for speeding, 84 for distracted driving, 26 Move Over Law tickets and 251 for safety restraint violations. State Police members made 87 DWI arrests during last year's holiday period.

In addition, State Police will participate in a Safety without Borders Initiative in areas adjacent to the Canadian borders to address high traffic volumes over the July 4 weekend. State Police will target traffic violations such as speeding, failure to wear seat belts, impaired driving and use of hand-held electronic devices on roads in the proximity of the major international border crossings.

Funding will come from redirecting existing resources and from seized asset accounts.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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