Troop­ers tar­get­ing tex­ting driv­ers

Tall, un­marked SUVs help po­lice see mo­torists’ hands

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY JIM FITZGER­ALD

MOUNT PLEAS­ANT, N.Y. | Even for a state trooper, it’s not easy to spot driv­ers who are tex­ting. Their smart­phones are down on their laps, not at their ears. And they’re prob­a­bly not mov­ing their lips.

That’s why New York has given state po­lice 32 tall, un­marked SUVs to bet­ter peer down at driv­ers’ hands, part of one of the na­tion’s most ag­gres­sive at­tacks on tex­ting while driv­ing that also in­cludes steeper penal­ties and dozens of high­way “Tex­ting Zones,” where mo­torists can pull over to use their de­vices.

“Look at that,” Trooper Clay­ton How­ell says, pulling along­side a black BMW while pa­trolling the high­ways north of New York City. “This guy’s look­ing down. I can see his thumb on the phone. I think we got him.”

Af­ter a quick wail of the siren and a flash of the tucked-away flash­ers, an ac­coun­tant from the sub­urbs is pulled over and given a ticket.

New York is among 41 states that ban text mes­sag­ing for all driv­ers and one of only 12 to pro­hibit us­ing hand­held cell­phones. The state this year stiff­ened penal­ties for mo­torists caught us­ing hand-held de­vices to talk or text, in­creas­ing penalty points on the driv­ing record from three to five, along with tick­ets that carry fines of up to $200.

With the tough new penal­ties came tougher en­force­ment. In a two-month crack­down this sum­mer, troop­ers handed out 5,553 tick­ets for tex­ting while driv­ing, com­pared to 924 in the same pe­riod last year.

In New York’s re­cent push, 91 ex­ist­ing rest ar­eas and turnoffs on the state Thruway and other high­ways have been re­branded “Tex­ting Zones,” some ad­ver­tised with blue signs declar­ing “It can wait. Text stop 5 miles.”

“To our knowl­edge, New York is the first,” Jonathan Ad­kins, deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Gover­nors High­way Safety As­so­ci­a­tion, said of the tex­ting turnoffs. “It’s an in­trigu­ing ap­proach and one that we think will pay div­i­dends and be du­pli­cated in other states.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New York State Trooper Clay­ton How­ell checks a screen that dis­plays driv­ing records in­side his pa­trol ve­hi­cle in Hawthorne, N.Y. Troop­ers are us­ing a fleet of tall, un­marked SUVs as part of a crack­down on tex­ting while driv­ing.

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