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Cuomo announces crackdown on distracted drivers

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State and local police will begin a statewide six-day crackdown today on drivers using cellphones while driving.

As part of Operation Hang Up, checkpoints will be set up and patrols stepped up in an effort to curtail distracted driving.

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

In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ten percent of all fatal crashes nationwide were classified as distraction-affected crashes, according to the NHTSA.

Current laws against distracted drivers include a $50 to $150 fine and five points against a license for the first offense and up to a $400 fine and five points for a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months.

On Nov. 1, a new law heightening penalties against young drivers with a junior or probationary license or a learner’s permit convicted of texting while driving will take effect. Those convicted will have licenses suspended for 120 days on the first offense and one year following a second offense.

“Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings,” State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said. “Distracted driving is just as dangerous as speeding or driving impaired and continues to be a leading contributing factor of motor vehicle crashes. Motorists should know this type of behavior will not be tolerated and you will be ticketed if you are caught using a handheld electronic device behind the wheel.”

Both marked and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement, or CITE, vehicles will be used during the operation, Gov. Cuomo’s office said. These unmarked vehicles are designed to sit higher than other vehicles to allow the officer greater ability to see other vehicles, according to an earlier news release from Gov. Cuomo’s office.

More than 875 tickets were issued during the last Operation Hang Up, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 last year, including 625 for talking on a cellphone and 250 for texting or using an electronic device.

“New York State has been in the forefront of combating distracted driving,” state DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said. “With new texting laws in effect, and increased enforcement efforts like this one, we are taking additional positive actions that will help educate the public and change extremely dangerous distracted driving behaviors.”

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