The New York State Police have a new weapon to fight the plague of drivers that insist on texting while operating their vehicle: Great Big Tall SUVs.
Most recently reported by the AP, NY has begun operating a fleet of 32 unmarked SUVs that let troopers more easily peer down into a car to see if the driver is texting or not.
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New York's Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement or CITE vehicles are part of what the AP calls " 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."
The AP story notes that New York is just one of 41 states that ban text messaging for all drivers and is among only 12 that prohibit using hand-held 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. 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.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), has said in the past year that any daytime moment across the country, about 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone behind the wheel. In 2011, distracted driving resulted in more than 3,300 deaths and 387,000 injuries. Other studies have shown Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
Recent studies have raised concerns over the growth of texting while driving and its dangers, especially for teenagers.
Almost 43% of high school students of driving age had texted while driving in the past month, according to a recent survey by the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.
There is even a move by the mobile carriers to stop texting and driving. Earlier this year, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA joined the "It Can Wait" campaign that AT&T began in 2010.
According to an IDG News Service story, DriveMode, an AT&T app for Android and BlackBerry phones, can disable almost every function on a phone when the embedded GPS shows the user is traveling more than 25 miles per hour. When a text is received, the app sends an automatic reply saying the user is driving. DriveMode has been pre-installed on the Pantech Discover, Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro. The app isn't activated by default.
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