State Police cracking down on distracted drivers
Posted at: 06/08/2012 5:29 PM
| Updated at: 06/08/2012 6:25 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
As the federal government cracks down on distracted driving, state police are using a special new vehicle to sneak up on unsuspecting offenders. It’s called a sight vehicle where troopers can pull alongside someone and actually see the person texting and the new technique is paying off.
Troop E, which covers a 10 county area including Monroe County issued just 57 tickets for texting in 2010 when it was only a secondary offense. Texting became a primary offense in July 2011 and 250 tickets were issued. Since the new unmarked vehicle hit the road at the end of last year, troopers have issued 363 texting tickets so far this year.
Trooper Alan Horst writes about 8 to 10 tickets a day for distracted driving. He says if time allowed, he could write 50.
Trooper Alan Horst said, “From people texting to putting makeup on, all the way to two guys were actually injecting drugs into their arm as I was driving next to them.”
The vehicle looks like any other S-U-V. But when the trooper turns on its lights, there's no mistake. You're being pulled over.
Trooper Horst said, “When we light it up, when we put the lights on it lights up like a Christmas tree. But coming up on people, they don't have any idea it's a police vehicle.”
Within five minutes, Trooper Horst pulled over a woman on 490 near the 590 split for talking on her cell phone while she was holding it.
Trooper Horst said,” She had it on speaker phone. However, it was up in her right hand. It was almost up to her face. The ironic thing is she had a blue tooth and she didn't use it today. “I told her next time if you get stopped and she was adamant there would never be a next time. Hopefully maybe she learned a lesson. We'll see.”
Trooper Horst is like a hawk - looking for people either with an electronic device in their hands - or the telltale looking down. On 490 near Goodman Street, he’s caught another unsuspecting driver.
Trooper Horst said, “That is a perfect example of distracted driving. You see how he keeps looking down? In that amount of time, he probably went the distance of a football field while he's not looking.”
Trooper Mark O'Donnell, spokesman for Troop E, says driver distraction has become the number one contributing factor for motor vehicle accidents. It took over from speeding several years ago.
Trooper Mark O'Donnell, NYS Police Troop E, said, “We would encourage everybody to use hands free devices and don't certainly text while driving. It's so terribly dangerous not only for you but if there are people walking or riding bicycles on the side of the road. It's extremely dangerous for pedestrians as well.”
Not surprisingly all of the drivers who were pulled over while News10NBC was on the ride-a-long declined to be interviewed.
There are only two stealth vehicles in our area. A third is coming, so they’ll have one for each of the three zones in the ten county Troop E area. The vehicles aren’t always dark blue either. They will be different colors.