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New York Cracks Down on Drivers Using Cellphones

ALBANY, N.Y. – If you drive while using a handheld device, you better watch out: On Monday, the New York State Police kicked off “Operation Hang Up,” a campaign targeting motorists who use their cellphone or other electronic devices while driving.

The crackdown continues through Sunday, April 29.

"Using a cellphone while driving is illegal and puts other motorists in danger," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in announcing the initiative earlier this month. "After the huge success of the first Operation Hang Up – when more than 800 distracted drivers were ticketed – this second campaign will enable state police to step up enforcement measures to send a clear message to drivers: Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”

Cuomo signed a law strengthening enforcement of texting-while-driving violations in July 2011. The law makes using a handheld electronic device for activities such as texting while driving a primary traffic offense, giving law enforcement the power to stop motorists solely for engaging in this activity. The penalty for using a handheld device while driving was also increased from two to three points on a driver’s license.

Recent research has shown that drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, according to the governor’s office. This is equivalent to the rate  for drivers at the threshold of the legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year attributed more than 3,000 deaths to distracted driving, the governor’s office said. Those numbers are why the state is making the crackdown on handheld devices by drivers a priority, according to Joseph D'Amico, superintendent of the New York State Police.

"If you use a hand-held cellphone or are texting while driving, you should expect to receive a ticket from a New York State Trooper,” D’Amico said. “Electronic devices have become commonplace in our lives, but they have no place in the hands of a driver. Operation Hang Up is a focused enforcement effort that will reinforce to the motoring public that these violations are taken seriously and will not be permitted."

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