Distracted driving tickets from state police total nearly 500 over July 4th weekend
Sunday, July 21, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Nearly 500 drivers were ticketed across New York for distracted driving during the July 4th weekend.

The holiday weekend involved heightened enforcement of traffic laws by state police in both marked and unmarked patrol vehicles.

“I signed a law to institute tougher penalties for texting while driving and starting this past July 4th weekend, the State Police is now using new tools and tactics to enforce that law,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “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 called for increased police 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. In all, 486 drivers received tickets for the violation.

Part of the increased enforcement involved the use of Concealed Identify Traffic Enforcement (CITE) 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.

According to a release issued by the governor's office, the number of accidents in the U.S. caused by cellphone use has tripled over the past seven years.

In New York State alone there was a 143 percent increase in cell phone-related accidents between 2005 and 2011 – by comparison, alcohol-related crashes actually decreased by 18 percent over the same period, the release said.

The governor has both strengthened New York’s distracted driving laws and increased enforcement by state law enforcement officials. A bill signed by the governor earlier this month instituted new license suspension periods for drivers with probationary and junior licenses who text and drive.

Legislation signed by the Governor 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.

New York State now has some of the nation’s most restrictive laws against distracted driving – for a state-by-state comparison of cellphone laws, go to 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.