The next time you are about to pick up your phone to send or read a text while you are behind the wheel, think again.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that through work with both state and local law enforcement, New York State has seen an increase of 840 percent in tickets for texting while driving since 2011.
According to the governor, in 2011 the state issued a total of 9,015 tickets for texting while driving and last year law enforcement handed out 84,720 tickets.
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“There is zero tolerance for distracted driving and state police will be out in force to crack down on this dangerous behavior,” Cuomo said. “By keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, we can help prevent needless tragedies and make this a safer New York.”
In 2011, Cuomo directed the DMV to set forth regulations that would increase the number of points given to drivers for texting while driving from two points to three points. Later in 2015, three points went up to five points for the violation — and in addition drivers were slapped with a $450 fine.
The governor also signed a law that would increase penalties for probationary and junior drivers who are caught texting while driving. Through the law, such drivers could face a 120-day suspension for a first offence and then lose their license for a year on a second offense if committed within six months.
Although tickets given out for texting while driving have gone up substantially from 2011 to 2015, the number of tickets handed out for talking on a cellphone while driving have decreased in the same time period.
In New York State, 248,540 tickets were issued in 2011 by state and local police for the use of a cellphone while driving and in 2015 132,028 tickets were given out.
Last year in total, which includes cellphone and texting tickets combined, police issued a total of 216,748 tickets.
New York City last year alone saw 132,028 tickets issued for cellphone use, and 84,720 tickets for texting while driving.
Under the law, drivers in New York State are prohibited from using portable electronic devices and actions deemed as illegal include holding such a device; talking on a handheld cellphone; writing, sending, reading saving or retrieving any “electronic data” including emails or texts; and looking at or taking photos.
Exceptions to the law include using a hands-free cellphone, using an electronic device attached to a vehicle surface, using a GPS attached to the vehicle, or making an emergency phone call to police, fire department, hospital or doctor’s office.
According to Cuomo, in 2014 over 48,000 police-reported crashes across the state cited “driver inattention or distraction” as a contributing factor to the incident.
“Distracted driving is just as dangerous as speeding or driving impaired and continues to be a leading contributing factor of motor vehicle crashes. Each year, there are needless tragedies and victims left behind someone couldn’t put down their handheld device,” said Joseph A. D’Amico, New York State Police superintendent. “Motorists should know this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Friday’s announcement was made together with Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Operation Hang Up — a high-visibility distracted driving crackdown running from April 8 to 13 carried out by law enforcement throughout the state.