Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tall, unmarked SUVs raise the bar on New York state 'texting while driving' enforcement

We've seen quite a few Golden State drivers using their cell phones without a headset. We've seen drivers texting, too. Both of these are banned in California, yet some blatantly do it anyway. It's not that easy to see such behavior, though. New York is another state with similar requirements, and as the AP reported on Monday, they've "raised the bar" (pun intended) in an attempted to clamp down.

The state of New York has equipped its state troopers with 32 tall, unmarked SUVs, all the better to see texting with while avoiding the frightened stare of drivers alerted by normal patrol car markings. The state has also added harsher penalties for texting drivers, but not all is bad: The state has also added dozens of highway "Texting Zones" where drivers can pull over to SMS and tweet as much as they want.

Despite what you might think about teens being the most frequent texters, as noted in the article, Trooper Clayton Howell -- while driving one of those SUVs -- ticketed an accountant from the suburbs after spying him a) looking down, b) with his thumb on the phone.

Before another traffic stop, Howell said,
You can see how oblivious they are to this vehicle. I'm right next to them, and they have no idea.
The mousy gray SUV has its own acronym -- CITE -- for Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement, is designed to hide in plain sight.

The New York state DMV's FAQ page regarding mobile device use can be found here. As it notes:
Under New York State law you cannot use a hand-held mobile telephone or send a text or an email while you drive. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive, except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency, or use a device to text or send email, you can receive a traffic ticket and pay a fine of $150 and surcharge as described below.
In 2013, New York has increased the penalties, as well.

Motorists caught using hand-held devices to talk or text will now see five points on their driving record, instead of the previous three. They can also receive fines of up to $400. They can also receive a $93 surcharge. These values are up from the prior fine of up to $100 and an $85 surcharge.

For those who are using headsets, there's one additional thing to remember: If you want stereo sound, it may be better to link the device via Bluetooth to your car (if your car has that feature). Howell pulled over a registered nurse who had earbuds in both ears. Only one earbud is permitted in New York state while driving.

Other states -- for example, California -- have the same ban against dual earbuds.

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