Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that in the first twelve hours of Operation Hang Up more than 150 drivers were ticketed for using hand-held devices. One State Trooper issued eight tickets in one hour while patrolling in the Kingston area.
The Governor was joined today in Battery Park City by safe driving advocacy groups and a White Plains woman who lost her parents in a distracted driving accident, to outline the launch of a second Operation Hang Up campaign to target motorists who use their cell phone and other electronic devices while driving. The campaign began Monday, April 23, and will continue through Sunday, April 29, 2012. The Governor also announced that in the first months of 2012, more than 65,000 motorists have been ticketed for using an electronic device while driving.
"Operation Hang Up is designed to send a strong message to motorists across New York State that driving and using a hand-held device simply do not mix," Governor Cuomo said. "We hear too many heartbreaking stories about how distracted driving leads to tragic consequences, and we must do everything in our power to ensure more lives are not unnecessarily lost because someone took their eyes off the road to use a phone."
The first Operation Hang Up enhanced enforcement campaign took place over last year's Thanksgiving Holiday, during which the New York State Police ticketed more than 800 drivers. The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee funds Operation Hang Up campaigns through a Distracted Driving Enforcement Grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The grant enables the State Police to focus patrol resources on the issue of distracted driving and supplements their conventional traffic safety and enforcement efforts. Similar enhanced enforcement periods will be conducted in the future.
Governor Cuomo signed a new law to strengthen 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. Additionally, the penalty for using a handheld device while driving has been increased from two to three points.
Recent research has shown that drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. The behavior of such drivers can be equivalent to the behavior of drunk drivers at the threshold of the legal limit of .08 BAC. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed more than 3,000 deaths last year to distracted driving, calling it a dangerous epidemic on Americas roadways.
Superintendent of the New York State Police Joseph A. D'Amico said, "Cell phones and electronic devices have become commonplace in our lives, but they do not belong in the hands of a driver. Operation Hang Up is designed to reinforce to drivers that these violations are taken seriously and will not be permitted in New York State. If you use a cell phone, electronic device, or are texting while driving, you should expect to receive a ticket from a New York State Trooper."
Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner and Chair of the Governors Traffic Safety Committee Barbara J. Fiala said, "With new texting laws in effect, and increased enforcement efforts like Operation Hang Up, New York State is taking major steps toward helping educate the public about the extreme danger of distracted driving. Under Governor Cuomos leadership, New York State has been in the forefront of combating distracted driving."
Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison said, "Over the seven-day period that Operation Hang Up is in effect, the State Police will step up enforcement measures to ensure that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The Thruway Authority will continue to do all we can to reinforce the fact that using a mobile device is a dangerous distraction and a real safety risk on the road."
White Plains resident Jacy Good, who lost both her parents in a 2008 accident involving a driver talking on a cellphone, attended today's news conference with the Governor.
Jacy Good said, "New York State has led the way on cell phone distracted driving laws. Strong legislation combined with powerful enforcement initiatives like Operation Hang Up is what changes behavior and saves lives on the road. It only takes a week to form a new habit. I encourage everyone to use this week to start a new habit and change the culture to focus on the safety of our roads. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment stopping the senseless pain caused by distracted driving."
AAA Legislative Committee Chairman John Corlett said, "Although state's across the country have cracked down on distracted driving, texting-while-driving continues to unnecessarily destroy lives. We praise Governor Cuomo's leadership in fighting hard to put an end to distracted driving here in New York. Operation Hang Up has already led to hundreds of drivers being ticketed for using electronic devices, and we look forward to its continued success making New York's highways and roads safer for all motorists."
The total number of tickets issued in 2012 for using a handheld device while driving are as follows: