PLATTSBURGH — People around here who text or talk while driving may not know who is watching them.
“We’ll find some (public) driveway, and pretend we’re pulling out,” Trooper Joseph Liberty said as he sat behind the wheel of State Police Troop B’s Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicle.
“We’ll just sit there and watch the cars go by.”
The CITE car is an unmarked SUV that sits higher off the ground than most larger cars, enabling the trooper to see down into the cars of motorists to determine whether they are using a handheld electronic device, Liberty explained.
It joined the force earlier this year and is sent out on cellphone details.
Many accidents and deaths are caused by drivers who are distracted by electronic devices, Liberty said.
“When you’re driving on the road and you’re not wearing your seat belt, you’re taking your life in your own hands,” he said. “When you’re driving on the road and you’re talking on a cellphone, you’re taking everyone’s lives in your hands.”
Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which, at 55 mph, is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blind, according to the U.S. government’s website for distracted driving.
Liberty spotted his first violation in a Volkswagen Jetta with New York plates and pulled out into traffic, accelerating rapidly to catch the car.
That’s when drivers around the CITE vehicle realize what it really is; the lights are placed around the interior of the car and aren’t visible from the outside.
“This is lit up like a Christmas tree,” Liberty said.
The woman driving the Jetta told him she was changing the song on her phone, which was synced to play music through her car’s speakers.