Cell Phone Crackdown Underway

ALBANY State and local police began a crackdown on distracted driving on Thursday, with the state starting a six-day blitz on drivers using their cell phones.

Increased patrols will be on highways and streets looking for drivers who are texting or talking on their phones, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The enforcement push is being called "Operation Hang Up."

The boosted patrols will be in effect through Tuesday.

"The message is clear: distracted driving is deadly and it will simply not be tolerated on New York roads," Cuomo said in a statement.

State Troopers will be out in both marked and unmarked patrol cars, according to Cuomo's office, along with sport-utility vehicles that are modified to sit higher so troopers can see into other cars in traffic.

The state has boosted penalties for texting while driving in recent years, with carries a maximum fine of $150 and five license points for a first offense. By the third offense, the fine increases to a maximum of $500.

Cuomo and lawmakers also made changes to the texting law for young and new drivers in this year's state budget.

Starting Nov. 1, drivers with a learner's permit or a junior or probationary license will have their driving privileges suspended for 120 days for their first texting-while-driving offense. A second offense carries a one-year ban.

Because of tougher enforcement and stronger laws, texting-while-driving tickets in New York leaped 82 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, records show. Outside New York City, the increase was 89 percent.

In 26 of New York's 62 counties, the number of texting tickets more than doubled from one year to the next, including in Westchester, Rockland, Broome and Dutchess.

Police issued 55,000 texting tickets statewide in 2013, up from about 30,000 in 2012.




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