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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.

— “With these new laws and regulations in place it is our turn as law enforcement to step up our enforcement efforts,” Groeber said. “State Police will have a visibly increased presence on the road with more troopers patrolling the highways in marked State Police vehicles and (Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles).”

The new, unmarked SUVs are designed with higher-than-average platforms to allow officers to more easily view drivers. If an offender is found, the cars are also equipped with hidden high intensity emergency lights.

“These vehicles have proven to be an effective tool in fighting and identifying drivers who are illegally using handheld devices while they are driving,” Groeber said. “(The vehicle) allows our officers to see into vehicles without being detected.”

The SUVs also will be in several colors. Groeber jokingly remarked, “I’m not going to tell you what colors they are.”

Funding for the additional State Police effort will be provided through redirecting resources and from seized assets accounts, Cuomo said.

Kelly Cline, a West Seneca mother whose 20-year-old son died in a texting-while-driving accident, stressed the importance of police being able to stop a vehicle solely for the purpose of texting while driving. Two years ago, she joined Cuomo when he signed a law establishing texting while driving as a primary traffic offense, rather than a secondary offense.

“These are not just regulations and laws. It is about the lives that can and will be saved,” Cline said. “Unfortunately, my family has firsthand knowledge of what can happen when someone chooses to text and drive.”

Last year, police ticketed almost 217,000 people for using a cell phone while driving. As of June 1 this year, almost 70,00 people have been ticketed. In Albany County last year, 3,773 people were ticketed, and 933 have been ticketed this year.

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