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Police Cracking Down on Distracted Drivers

West Seneca, NY (WBEN) Through next Tuesday, state police and local law enforcement will be stepping up patrols and checkpoints as part of a campaign to look for distracted drivers.

During a similar week long campaign last year, state police gave out nearly 900 tickets for distracted driving
  Amherst, NY (WBEN) - During his stop in Amherst to deliver a budget speech on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo took time to address texting while driving.

"Texting while driving is a crisis in this state, it is especially a crisis for young drivers, because it's a bad combination," Cuomo said.

What is that combination? "They get their license, they believe they're masters of the road, they understand it, they get it. Then, they're the generation that is biologically attached to their device. The umbilical cord continued to grow, came out their hand, and attached to their device, it's a fascinating phenomenon. They can't put down the Blackberry or the iPhone, and when it makes a tingle they have to pick it up. You put those two things together, that is a bad combination."

Cuomo joked that he knows the problem all to well after recently teaching his children how to drive. That's why this November the laws will change to ensure young drivers caught texting while driving will learn a lesson.

Effective November 1st, young and new drivers convicted of texting while driving will have their license suspended for 120 days on the first offense. On a second offense, their license will be suspended for one year.

"I'd rather they lose their license than lose their lives," Cuomo said.

Captain Edward Baker says he sees a lot of distracted driving while he's off duty. "When I'm driving in a marked patrol car, people see the car and put the cell phone down, but in my own car I see it all the time," says Baker.

With the help of grant money, Baker says there will be dedicated patrols.

"We will have these patrols at certain times of the enforcement period work cell phones only. Their only duty will be cell phone enforcement," explains Baker.

Baker says stopping a driver for texting while driving requires an element of safety, like any other traffic stop.

"If you see someone passing you using a cell phone, you have to make sure it's safe to make the stop. You can't cut someone off trying to make a stop," says Baker.

Baker says police are looking at phone records to determine whether drivers are texting and talking while driving and if that contributed to any crash they're involved in.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 people injured in crashes involving distracted drivers during 2012.

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State and local police are increasing patrols and checkpoints statewide from April 10 to 15 to encourage drivers not to use their mobile phones.

Authorities say "Operation Hang Up" combines anti-texting and cell phone law enforcement with advertisements to let people know about the push and convince them to obey the law.

The first offense is a minimum fine of $50. That can increase to $400 for the third offense.

Beginning Nov. 1, young and new drivers found texting while driving will have their licenses suspended for 120 days on the first offense. A second offense will lead a year-long suspension.


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