A statewide crackdown on motorists using electronic devices will be in effect Thursday through Monday as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The special enforcement effort, which is called Operation Hang Up, will involve checkpoints targeting motorists using their cellphones while driving, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said in a news release Thursday.
Distracted-driving crashes nationwide killed 3,477 people and injured an estimated 391,000 people in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Preliminary figures show there has been a 918 percent increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York State from 2011, the first year of the effort, to 2016, according to the release. While tickets for cellphone use continue to decline, the proliferation of smartphones has caused texting tickets to rise every year since 2011.
“Distracted driving is dangerous and illegal, and with this crackdown we are once again sending the message that making calls or texting behind the wheel will not be tolerated in New York,” Cuomo said. “State Police and local law enforcement will be out in force to ensure our roadways are safe, and I urge all drivers to act responsibly and put their devices down to prevent tragedy and heartbreak.”
Both Nassau County and Suffolk County police will also be participating in the enforcement, the departments said.
Joseph Morrissey, a spokesman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said that last year alone, in Suffolk County there were 11,116 tickets issued for distracted driving, including 6,876 for cellphone use and 4,240 for texting. He said that in Nassau the total was 7,564, with 5,358 and 2,206 being issued for cellphone use and texting, respectively.
Cuomo noted in the release that April traditionally marks the start of the spring driving season, and that during the month State Police and local law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on other vehicle and traffic law infractions.
In 2015, 160 people were killed and more than 33,000 people were injured in crashes in New York that had “driver inattention/distraction” reported as a contributing factor, a study conducted by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research found.
“Cellphone use and texting are responsible for a significant proportion of traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said in the release. “If you’re texting, you’re not driving.”
Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles as part of the crackdown to more easily identify motorists who are using handheld devices while driving.
“One call or one text can lead to one horrible mistake on the road, which in turn can have lifelong repercussions for motorists, cyclists or pedestrians,” Terri Egan, the DMV executive deputy commissioner and acting chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, said in the release.
During last year’s Operation Hang Up campaign, State Police issued more than 18,000 tickets, including more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving. Tickets were written for talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device, texting or using an electronic device while driving.