Over the next few days, drivers all over the state of New York will be hitting the roads and highways for Thanksgiving travel. However, before heading out and driving back, motorists should know that law enforcement officials will be conducting a statewide campaign designed to enforce some of the more stringent vehicle traffic laws.
Specifically, law enforcement officials across New York will be stepping up the number of patrols on the lookout for distracted drivers, meaning those drivers using cell phones or other handheld devices while driving.
Referred to as Operation Hang-up, this Thanksgiving crackdown was made possible by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
"Over the Thanksgiving holiday we will be stepping up our enforcement measures to send a clear message to drivers: keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel," said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a released statement. "Using a handheld device while driving is illegal and puts the lives and safety of New Yorkers on the road at risk."
Here in New York, texting while driving is now a primary offense. This means that any law enforcement official in the state can stop and ticket you solely for this act. Prior to July, however, texting while driving was only a secondary offense, such that a law enforcement official could not issue a citation for it unless they first witnessed a primary offense - such as speeding - and pulled the driver over.
The penalties for a texting while driving citation can be severe, including a $150 fine and three points against a driver's license.
In fact, it is worth noting that since the new texting while driving ban became law, the number of traffic citations issued has increased dramatically. To illustrate, from July through mid-September of 2011, the number of citations issued throughout the state was 43 percent higher than all of 2010.
Accordingly, motorists will want to be especially vigilant this holiday weekend.
"Drivers must eliminate distractions and behaviors that take their attention from the road and unnecessarily puts lives at risk," said State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico in a released statement. "During this enhanced enforcement period, troopers will ticket those drivers who ignore this law and use a mobile device while driving."
If you have been issued a traffic citation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.
This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
Stay tuned for further developments from our New York vehicle traffic law blog ...
WGRZ-2, "New York to crack down on distracted driving" Nov. 17, 2011