RAY BROOK — Police are cracking down on cellphone use while driving starting today.
State Police Troop B Commander Major Richard C. Smith Jr. said troopers are stepping up patrols and checkpoints throughout northern New York now through Tuesday, April 15, as part of the statewide Operation Hang Up.
The effort encourages drivers to focus on the road instead of using mobile devices.
The campaign will combine intense enforcement of anti-texting and cellphone laws with advertising and media outreach to convince people to obey the law.
“Electronic devices have become commonplace in our lives, but they have no place in the hands of a driver,” Smith said in a statement. “I’ve instructed our troopers to take a zero-tolerance stance.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said distracted driving “is deadly, and it will simply not be tolerated on New York roads.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,328 people across the country were killed and about 421,000 hurt in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012.
Current laws include these penalties for distracted drivers:
First offense: The minimum fine is $50, and maximum is $150.
Second offense within 18 months: The minimum fine is $50, and the maximum is $200.
Third offense within 18 months: The minimum fine is $50, and the maximum is $400.
Cuomo has directed the State Department of Motor Vehicles to implement tougher penalties for distracted driving. DMV has increased the number of points against a person’s driving record upon conviction for texting-while-driving and cellphone infractions from three to five.
Troopers will be using marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles to identify motorists who are using handheld devices while driving.
During the last Operation Hang Up campaign, held Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2013, State Police issued more than 875 tickets.
Of those, more than 625 tickets were for talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving, and 250-plus tickets were for texting or using an electronic device while driving.