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State Police Using Unmarked Cars As They Target Drivers Using Cell Phones

"Operation Hang Up" looks to reduce accidents related to cell phone use, texting.

State troopers are stepping up enforcement of cell phone use and texting while driving violations in an attempt to prevent crashes by changing driving behaviors.   

During “Operation Hang Up,” April 23-29, troopers will blanket area roads targeting drivers using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, according to State Police Major Michael A. Kopy.

“Electronic devices have become commonplace in our lives, but they have no place in the hands of a driver,” said Kopy.  “I’ve instructed our troopers to take a zero tolerance stance.”

To assist them in more effectively detecting phone users, the State Police have devised a number of enforcement strategies, including use of specially designed  vehicles that allow them to patrol inconspicuously in traffic while providing a superior vantage point to observe phone use and texting, Kopy said. Known as CITE — Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement — vehicles, the stealthy patrols bear no police decals, but are unmistakable as police vehicles when the emergency lights are activated.

Kopy said that recent research shows that drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, and that the behavior of such drivers is equivalent to the behavior of drunk drivers at the threshold of the legal limit of .08 BAC. Texting increases the risk more than 23 times, he said. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed more than 3,000 deaths last year to distracted driving, calling it a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways.

“The State Police are making distracted driving enforcement a priority, and we are changing our tactics accordingly to step up enforcement.” said Kopy.   “This is serious.  Our successes and failures are measured in human lives.”

Under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, merely viewing a phone or other hand-held electronic device while driving is illegal. Violators may be fined as much as $150, be charged additional mandatory court surcharges, and be assessed three driver violation points.

John Whitley April 13, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I wish we could have a couple of these guys hang out in Nyack for a few days. It amazes me to see just how many drivers think the law does not apply to them and drive around the Village with a cell phone "glued" to their ear. Yesterday I saw a woman who was legally in the middle of a clearly marked cross-walk almost get mown down by a driver who was so involved in her phone conversation she did not see the pedestrian OR hear me blowing my horn to attract her attention to the fact that she had almost caused a serious accident. People, PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND DRIVE !
Realty Check April 13, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I am alarmed by how many people are texting while driving. You can see the drivers head down reading messages and texting back. It's not just the young people. I commute back and forth on the Palisades Parkway each day and it's rampant especially among the middle aged workers. We could cure all our budget woes if we start hitting these people with fines.
William Demarest (Editor) April 13, 2012 at 01:54 PM
What's important to note is that just looking at a hand-held electronic device will get you a ticket.
Donna Dixon April 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I think this crackdown by police should get us talking about this problem. It is an epidemic in our vicinity. Everyone I know ,now has multiple horror stories of people who either cause or get close to causing an accident due to cell phone. It has happened to me. I hope the Patch reports the outcome of this police action and keeps the discussion going.
Krista Madsen (Editor) April 13, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I think this is great news. Agree with above comments. I'm scared out there; these drivers are a threat to everyone.
Stephen Shryock April 13, 2012 at 03:31 PM
My office, Nationwide Insurance agency of Stephen J Massa in Yonkers, has partnered with the Westchester County District Attorney's office to bring this message to young drivers. We visited 9 Schools last fall and Next week plan to visit 8 more schools. We present a powerpoint presentation and then have the students use a simulator to drive and attempt to text to show them what really happens. if you would like additional information, please contact us at 914-315-6550 and ask for Stephen Shryock (Hastings resident and Hastings firefighter).
Donna Dixon April 13, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Kudos to you Stephen, I am proud of this effort you&your Office are undertaking. It is a wonderful community service. Hopefully this type of presentation will grow and eventually be done for the middle-aged drivers who are just as bad as the teens. I think it is a hard audience to reach. I guess the tickets will help that. It is always easier to get to the students because they are all in one place everyday. What about grown ups? Any ideas out there?
eight4five April 13, 2012 at 11:35 PM
with all the technology out there, you would think that maybe someone would create a device to make the phones only operable through the Bluetooth system, which in most new cars is standard equipment. Or even a app that does it automatically when entering the vehicle . It's actually a pretty simple solution to a big problem. When you get in your car, your phone would connect to Bluetooth, which I does automatically in most cases, and the phone would lock and be virtually inoperable except to make and receive calls through the bluetooth .
S.Diamond April 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I think a $150 is much too little. Should be a grand for the cell and $2500 for texting.
S.Diamond April 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I see a lot of busts coming up on 59 in Nanuet. Cell phone usage commonplace there. Even when you honk to get them off it - they continue the merry convo.
VinnyfromCongers April 14, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Gov. Pataki forbid the use of unmarked cars for traffic enforcement by the state police. Was that policy modified? If so, i think it's about time. Everyone on the PIP and the thruway know there hasn't been an unmarked car for over 10 years. Speeding, tailgating and unsafe lane changes are running rampant because there was no way to get caught. Hopefully, the new state police superintendent who lives in West Nyack noticed and is doing something about it.
Donna Dixon April 14, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Wow, thanks 2 S. Diamond, Eight4Five, and Vinny from Congers. I believe they have the practical solutions. The politicians need to get this issue on their radar. Columns like this as well as media attention will help turn this situation around. Have a nice weekend
S.Diamond June 27, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Too much scheming and wheelin and dealin of millions to worry about multiple high level fines for cells and texting while driving. Unfortunately, they don't get it until it hits home - which I do not wish on anybody.
Donna Dixon June 27, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Yes, you are correct about other things being a priority for politicians. If the issue of cell phones would for some reason become an election issue which could help them get elected or enough of their constituency complained, then the politicians would be forced to act. That is the way it works. Today is a primary day in some areas and the low turnout bespeaks the discontent of most voters. Many people are disgusted with NY politics and they have stopped working the democratic process. They feel nothing will change.
Donna Dixon June 27, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Oops, I am tired today, I didn't mean today is a primary day. I mean that we just had a primary and there was a low turnout. (Correction)

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