Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today detailed a summer crackdown by the New York State Police on distracted driving in Buffalo. The up to $1 million effort, which began this past July 4th holiday weekend, 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. "Enhancing the enforcement of our laws will ensure that New York State remains a safe place for drivers this summer and beyond. There is no excuse for distracted driving, and with this increased enforcement push using undercover vehicles, New Yorkers can be sure that the State Police are watching the road, even if other drivers are not."
Senator Timothy Kennedy said, "By strengthening the penalties for New York's most inexperienced drivers, we are taking a significant step toward safer roads across New York State. These new laws send an important message to teenage drivers: keep your eyes on the road and off your phone. I am proud to support this legislation and I applaud Governor Cuomo for his continued efforts to prevent this deadly distraction from taking another young life."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Texting while driving has already caused countless tragedies across New York State and our nation. We are fortunate to have a Governor who understands that the growing crisis of texting while driving requires bold action. The Assembly and the Senate were proud to stand with the Governor to pass legislation that will keep our roads safer and help to eliminate needless tragedy cause by careless texting and driving."
Kelly Cline, a mother from West Seneca, New York, who lost her son in a texting-while-driving accident, joined the Governor at the press conference today.
"We all fought hard for the No-Texting-While-Driving law, and I am thrilled that the Governor continues to improve and strengthen it. We are saving lives," she said.
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.
"Our troopers are out on the roads every day and see the dangers of texting while driving first hand," said Patricia Groeber, State Police Deputy Superintendent Field Commander. "Our top priority is keeping motorists and pedestrians safe on New York's roadways and these vehicles will be an effective law enforcement tool in identifying drivers who are illegally using hand held devices while driving."
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.
Funding will come from redirecting existing resources and from seized asset accounts.
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."
In 2012, state and local law enforcement officials ticketed a total of 216,706 people for the use of a cellphone while driving, and for 2013 (as of June 1st) a total of 69,970 people had been ticketed for using a cellphone behind the wheel.