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Tickets for texting while driving skyrocket across state

WBFO file photo

New data indicates that many motorists across the state are texting behind the wheel – and are getting caught in massive numbers.

The number of tickets issued for texting while driving skyrocketed by 918 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to figures released this week by Governor Cuomo’s office. More than 92,000 tickets were written

for the offense, up from just over 9,000 in 2011.

Meanwhile, tickets issued statewide to drivers who were caught using handheld cellphones dropped by more than 54 percent over the same six-year period.

Credit WBFO
Trooper James O'Callaghan, regional public information officer for the New York State Police

“Technology has gotten better,” said James O’Callaghan, a regional public information officer for the New York State Police in explain the decrease in cell phone-related citations. “Cars have added Bluetooth. You buy a lot of the cars that are even a couple years old now that have integrated cellphones with Bluetooth technology. So you may not get the person talking on their cell phone as much as you would back a few years ago.”

But texting is another story. Data shows that texting tickets have increased every year since 2011.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. State police and local law enforcers are increasing patrols to target motorists who are engaging in distracted behaviors. Operation Hang-Up is a campaign uses marked and unmarked vehicles at checkpoints to target distracted drivers in hopes of reducing the number of collisions.

Data compiled by the Institute for Traffic Safety and Management and Research indicates that in 2015, 160 people across the state were killed and more than 33,000 were injured while 160 people were killed in crashes that were caused by distracted driving.

O’Callaghan said using handheld devices while driving is not limited to one group of motorists.

“This is a common problem that were seeing with all walks of life and all ages of people that drive vehicles unfortunately,” he told WBFO. “Social Media, smartphones -- having a cellphone is now a way of life. The part that we have to separate is when you’re driving, you have to turn it off and you have to put down that cellphone.”

O’Callaghan offered tips for avoiding the temptation of using devices while driving.

“A lot of moms might be taking kids to pre-school or things like that. Put your purse in the back seat. Your phone is in the back seat that’s one temptation that you don’t have,” he said. “And the same thing with men. Men ,if you have a phone, put it in the center console until you get to your destination. That’s a distraction that you can absolutely avoid by just removing from your possession or somewhere within reach.”

Last year, 205,213 distracted driving tickets were handed out in New York. A survey

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