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State raises bar on distracted driving

Cuomo says initiative, laws aim to change behavior and save lives

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 1 touts legislation creating new penalties for young and new drivers who text or use their phones while driving. Cuomo recently announced the state is increasing distracted driving enforcement efforts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 1 touts legislation creating new penalties for young and new drivers who text or use their phones while driving. Cuomo recently announced the state is increasing distracted driving enforcement efforts.

— State Police are amplifying efforts to catch motorists using their phones while behind the wheel in hopes behaviors will change.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, July 9, while in Buffalo, detailed a $1 million summer initiative to increase enforcement of distracted driving laws by boosting undercover operations statewide. State Police will use unmarked vehicles that are specially designed to enhance the ability of troopers to catch people using their phone while driving. The effort started during the 4th of July holiday weekend.

“Distracted driving is a crisis. It is a crisis that is getting worse,” Cuomo said. “When this crisis gets worse, people die. That is why it’s important.”

One in five crashes in New York is a result of distracted driving, Cuomo said, and the number of cell phone related accidents has tripled over the last seven years. From 2005 to 2011, the number of deaths and injuries from distracted driving increased by 143 percent.

“We now have five times more accidents from distracted driving than from alcohol abuse and driving,” Cuomo said. “It is especially bad for young people … (who are) culturally linked to these devices in a way that old people like me are not. … They have an umbilical cord that is connected to the device.”

Cuomo said he knows firsthand how attached younger people are to electronic devices because he has three daughters, two of whom just started driving.

“Forty-three percent of young people admit to texting while driving. I believe there is a large percent that don’t admit,” he said. “It is hard to explain to them how toxic a combination this can be. The inexperience and inattention can kill people … it can be a death sentence.”

Patricia Groeber, deputy superintendent field commander of the State Police, said every driver, especially younger ones, need to realize texting while driving is dangerous.

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