By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Keep your eyes on the road and off your cell phone.
That's the message this summer from State Police and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo announced Wednesday the state will spend $1 million this summer to crack down on distracted driving.
The campaign starts with the July 4th holiday.
"Texting-while-driving is a dangerous practice that will not to be tolerated on New York's roads and highways," Cuomo said in a statement. "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."
State Police will use unmarked vehicles to nab people driving and talking on their cell phones without a hands-free device or texting behind the wheel. They will drive what are called Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles -- which are higher above the ground than other vehicles.
In 2011, Cuomo signed a law to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning police could pull someone over directly for it. It's led to a surge in texting tickets, from 3,500 in 2011 to 30,000 in 2012.
Outside New York City and Long Island, the most texting tickets have been issued in Erie and Monroe counties, about 3,000 and 2,000, respectively. Westchester County gave out 1,780 since the law was first adopted in 2009.
In New York, one in five crashes is a result of distracted driving, Cuomo said.
Over the past month, Cuomo and the Legislature have toughened texting-while-driving laws. The points on a license for texting was increased from three points to five points, and new drivers could have their licenses suspended or revoked for texting while driving.
Checkpoints for drunken driving and underage drinking will also be taking place during the holiday weekend. Last year, State Police made 87 DWI arrests during the July 4th weekend, and issued about 3,200 traffic tickets.