Police Crack Down On Distracted Driving
A statewide crackdown on distracted driving has led to a spike of nearly 118,000 tickets since tougher laws went into effect in July.
The message behind the law is clear: distracted driving is dangerous.
"Most people have had close calls with texting and driving," said state Trooper Warren Johnson.
"They'll be texting, look up, and realize that they're in the opposite lane. Sometimes they take that to heart and they actually change their behavior. Sometimes they don't."
That's where the law comes in. The law Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed last summer made driving while using an electronic handheld device a primary offense.
That means it's the only thing police need to see to pull you over.
"I mean it was kind of stressful before because we could see all this going on and not be able to do anything about it, but you know it's a big help for us now," said Jefferson County Sheriff John Burns.
And that's what's led to a big increase in the number of tickets written for distracted driving, a spike that can be seen on the local level.
"We are issuing more tickets," Burns said.
"Again, the new law and the penalties, all we're trying to do is to keep people safe," he said.
It's tough to say whether the crackdown has really made the roads safer.
"You can't really tell if somebody has stopped after they have gotten a ticket written to them," Johnson said. "Texting, it's a hard habit to break - but I hope it does."
"By issuing tickets, we get people to stop and think," Burn said, "and obviously distracted driving does cause motor vehicle accidents and will cause deaths."
The message is clear: keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Police are keeping an eye on you.
Thursday, May 23, 2013, Watertown, NY
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