New York State Police have a message for drivers: if you use electronics while you’re behind the wheel of a car, you’re going to pay.
As part of April’s designation as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, state police announced a crackdown on distracted driving, while began on Thursday, April 12, lasting through Monday, April 16.
According to police, troopers in marked and unmarked vehicles will “aggressively ticket drivers using handheld devices - like smartphones - during Operation Hang Up.”
Distracted driving has reached the top of the list of growing dangers on local roadways, surpassing aggressive or impaired drivers, according to a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety this week.
The study states that 88 percent of drivers contend that distracted driving is on the rise, a 30 percent increase in just five years. The release of the report comes as several local law enforcement agencies announce their intentions to ramp up distracted driving enforcement details in April, which has been designated as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”
In the study, 49 percent of those surveyed reported that they’ve talked on cellphones while driving, and 35 percent admitted that they’ve sent a text or email, “even though most believe it’s wrong to do while driving.” The survey also found that “nine out of 10 drivers nationwide reflect a ‘do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do’ attitude” in regards to cellphone use while driving.
It is estimated that nearly 700,000 people use a cellphone while driving in America each day. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a crash is four times as likely if a driver is distracted, whether it’s on a hands-free device or not.
In New York, distracted driving can cost repeat offenders up to $450 and can lead to a 120-day suspension of a driver’s license, and a one-year revocation for two offenses in six months.
According to state police, "Operation Hang Up is a special enforcement effort to step up patrols and checkpoints. Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (unmarked) vehicles as part of the operation in order to identify motorists who are using handheld electronic devices while driving. CITE vehicles allow troopers to better observe distracted driving violations. These vehicles blend in with everyday traffic but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once the emergency lighting is activated."
During last year's Operation Hang Up campaign, held from April 8 through April 13, State Police troopers dished out more than 2,000 tickets to distracted drivers.
To keep motorists safe, AAA released a handful of tips to help avoid distracted driving:
- Put aside electronic distractions and refrain from using text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
- Pre-program your GPS; adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before driving.
- Properly secure children and pets; and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.
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