BUFFALO, N.Y. - If there were ever a good time to stop using your cell phone illegally while driving, this would be it.
New York State Police are preparing for what is expected to be nearly a week of increased enforcement of the hands-free law on state roads and highways. Beginning Monday, motorists can expect authorities to be blanketing the highways looking for distracted drivers on cell phones.
They will begin Phase Five of what's known as "Operation Hang-Up." The operation is designed to remove distracted drivers from the roadways. State law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, unless you're using a hands-free device. It also prohibits texting or using the internet while driving. In Erie County, texting is considered a primary offense. That means they can pull you over for that alone.
For some perspective on how aggressive the ticketing is, during last's year four-day operation alone, state police covering the thruway wrote 879 tickets for cell phone violations.
"What we'll be doing is taking a zero-tolerance policy toward distracted driving," New York State Police Sergeant Derrick Harris said. "Stay off the cell phones, and hopefully this will save lives."
For talking on the phone without a hands-free device, the maximum fine is $100 plus a mandatory $60 surcharge. For texting or using the internet while driving, the maximum fine is $150. The cost of a hands-free device is about 30 bucks.
Studies have indicated cell phone use while driving quadruples your risk of an accident.
This operation comes two weeks after state police lost one of their own, when he was struck by a car while writing a ticket.
While there is no indication the tragedy was related to cell phone use, safe driving, no doubt, is first and foremost on the minds of state police.