It Can Wait

Distracted drivers beware.

Local New York State Troopers are participating in a five-day crackdown on distracted drivers who talk or text on their cellphones while driving.

The crackdown, which is aptly titled “Operation Hang Up,” began Thursday and will end on Tuesday. An increased number of police patrols and checkpoints are expected.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the crackdown on Wednesday, and hopes it will encourage drivers to focus more on the road and less on their mobile devices.

“The message is clear: distracted driving is deadly and it will simply not be tolerated on New York roads,” Cuomo said. “With stricter laws and crackdowns like this one, we are working to make New York a safer state for all our drivers.”

Current laws for distracted drivers are: a $50 to $100 fine for a first offense; a $50 to $200 fine for the second offense committed within 18 months; and a $50 to $400 fine for a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months.

Beginning in November, young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their licenses suspended for 120 days on the first offense. They will have their licenses suspended for one year for a second offense.

“The use of cellphones and electronic devices has increased dramatically,” said Captain Eric J. Balon, New York State Police zone III commander. “My patrols have made many more arrests for cellphone uses, texting and Internet searches while driving than we’ve made in the past.”

Balon added that the state police in Jamestown are using a concealed identity traffic enforcement vehicle as part of their operations. This is essentially an unmarked police vehicle that blends into everyday traffic and allows police to catch offenders off-guard.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,328 people around the country were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012; an estimated 421,000 were injured.

“I urge all New Yorkers to hang up, keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel so that no one has to unnecessarily suffer the pain of losing a loved one at the hands of a text,” Cuomo said.