Texting crackdown nets hundreds in Hudson Valley

Joseph Dea, of West Hollywood, Calif., pauses as

Joseph Dea, of West Hollywood, Calif., pauses as he texts while driving in a car in Brunswick, Maine, in this posed photo. The texting ban is prominent among the scores of laws taking effect Wednesday, Sept. 28, the 90th day after the close of the 2011 regular session. (Sept. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Drivers in Westchester, Orange and Ulster counties were among the most-ticketed in a recent State Police effort to crack down on texting while driving.

Troopers caught more people texting behind the wheel in Orange County than in any other New York county, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office said Friday. Orange County drivers were issued 280 tickets for splitting their attention between smartphones and the road.

The data does not include New York City, since troopers don't have jurisdiction in cities. State Police plan their details around traffic patterns as well as population numbers, a spokesman for the governor's office said. That means high-population areas -- like Westchester -- and major commuter paths, like I-84, will typically see more details.

In all, troopers issued 3,172 tickets across the state during Operation Hang-Up, which began April 23 and ended April 29, the governor's office said.

"The fact that State Police issued more than three thousand distracted driving tickets in seven days is a wake-up call for all of us: motorists must change their behaviors and stop putting themselves and others at risk," Cuomo wrote in a statement.

New York followed the lead of other states last year when lawmakers passed legislation making it easier for police to make traffic stops when they suspect drivers have their attention on a mobile device. The law also increased penalties for distracted-driving convictions.

Texting diminishes reaction time and awareness more than impaired driving, some studies contend. A 2009 analysis by Car and Driver Magazine recorded unimpaired and even drunken drivers braking more quickly than drivers writing texts or emails.

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Troopers ticketed 227 drivers in Westchester and 235 in Ulster during the weeklong Operation Hang-Up effort, according to the governor's office. Troopers issued 47 tickets in less-populous Putnam County, and only 52 tickets in Rockland County.

The penalty for first-time offenders is three license points and a maximum fine of $150 for texting, and two license points and a maximum fine of $150 for talking on a cell phone while driving, according to the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.

Thomas Madison, director of the state Thruway Authority, said in a statement that the volume of tickets issued during Operation Hang-Up underscores "the need for drivers to get the message to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road."


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