New York State Police Cracking Down on Distracted Driving

By Steph Machado

Published 04/13 2014 06:51PM

Updated 04/13 2014 07:16PM

TOWN OF PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Less than a minute into our patrol with New York State Police, we spotted someone using a cell-phone behind the wheel.

"You had an electronic device in your right hand, looking down at that instead of looking at the roadway," Trooper Joe Liberty said to the driver after pulling her over.

"I wasn't looking at it, I was seeing what time it was," the driver said. Trooper Liberty says he's heard that one before.

"We hear every excuse possible," he said. "Whether or not she was checking the time, the simple fact is the section I'm going to write up is operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic device." That driver was one of many being ticketed during "Operation Hang Up," a 5-day, intense crackdown on distracted driving that runs April 10-15.

"Talking on the phone in particular, as well as texting, are major problems in the area," explained Trooper Liberty.

We rode along with Trooper Liberty in a CITE vehicle, which stands for Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement. The make, model and color of the car are a secret.

"The car itself is risen up so we can look down into other vehicles," Trooper Liberty said.

For nearly a decade, New York law has banned the use of all electronics while driving. It's a stricter law than surrounding states. Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire ban texting while driving. Vermont and Massachusetts ban hand-held devices just for minors, but adults can use them to talk on the phone.

Since Plattsburgh is so close to Vermont, many drivers accustomed to yakking and driving have to put the phone down when they cross the lake.

"Ignorance to the law is not an excuse," said Trooper Liberty. "So if you're from Vermont and you're in New York and you're using your phone or texting while you're driving, you're going to get a ticket," he said.

The last crackdown, from November 27-December 1 of 2013, yielded 875 tickets.

The fine ranges from $50-$150, up to the discretion of the judge. The real punishment is a 5-point penalty on your license. Young drivers will have their license suspended for 120 days on the first offense.

"We wrote 3 tickets in 17 minutes", said Trooper Liberty.

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