State police look down on driving texters, give them tickets

Photo: IntelFreePress, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: IntelFreePress, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A story today from the Associated Press (h/t Watertown Daily Times) describes a new effort in New York state to curb texting while driving: The state has given State Police 32 “tall” SUVs (they’re unmarked, and judging by the photos that accompany the article, not massively recognizable). Police can look into drivers’ cars from above and see what they’re up to, and can then pull said drivers over and give them tickets for texting while driving. Said tickets can cost a driver $150 or more plus five points on the license (here’s the details from the state DMV.)

Texting while driving is, not surprisingly, incredibly dangerous (and I say this as someone who has in the past driven with her knees while pawing through a cooler for sandwiches. But not anymore, mom…) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (via the AP article), “more than 3,300 people were killed and 421,000 injured in crashes caused by distracted driving last year.” If you’re still unconvinced, watch this horrifying documentary on texting while driving by filmmaker Werner Herzog:



Purely on a visceral level, some might find the notion of police peering into your lap as you drive slightly unsettling. But police have the right to stop you if they see you thumb typing, no matter how they find out: Texting while driving became a “primary offense” in 2011, which means they can stop you just for that.

Governors Highway Safety Association deputy executive director Jonathan Adkins told the AP the approach is “intriguing,” and said it’s “one that we think will pay dividends and be duplicated in other states.”

So what do you think? Is this a big deal, or practical if slightly odd-sounding law enforcement and safety measure? Are you feeling self conscious? Are you planning on keeping your hands in the 10 and 2 positions all the time now, even when you’re not driving?

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9 Comments on “State police look down on driving texters, give them tickets”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Think it’s a good idea but would add confiscating the phone until the fine is paid.

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  2. Paul says:

    Maybe this is good. But whenever I see a trooper (one person alone) driving around in one of those totally expensive gas guzzlers (never turning the thing off) I gotta wonder if this is the smartest way to spend taxpayer funds?

    I can’t text and drive I would crash immediately. What about those crazy people who drive around with their dog in their lap? That should be a 10 point violation.

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  3. Walker says:

    As an Old Guy, I’ve never sent a text message, so naturally I think they should treat it like a DWI.

    Of course, in my heedless youth I did plenty of distracted driving, reaching for stuff behind or under the seat, trying to find the cassette tape I wanted to play, that sort of thing. I’m lucky to be alive.

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  4. SESZOO says:

    Don’t own a cell phone so won’t have any need to text or talk on it while driveing, Hopefully I or anyone I know won’t be hit by some one texting , I do agree with Paul on those nuts that drive around with the little dog in their lap . My dogs always love rideing but they are in the back never the front ,anytime they are in the car , This is a good law with the cell phones but was wondering are the police also required to obey the law like the rest of us or do they get a pass on this law …

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  5. Paul says:

    The police are allowed to talk on a non-hands-free phone. Not sure about texting. I doubt it. Walker, I hear you. My friend in high school reached down to grab a tape and looked up to see he was going into the woods. Luckily this was on a dirt road and he wasn’t going too fast.

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  6. Marlo Stanfield says:

    The police are theoretically required to obey the law, but realistically I imagine a police officer’s chances of getting ticketed for disobeying it are a lot lower than yours or mine.

    All this texting while driving hysteria seems like overkill. Every few years, we seem to get ourselves whipped into a frenzy over the latest worst thing ever, and pass some more laws that result in a lot more tickets and not a whole lot of lives saved.

    Responsible drivers are going to drive responsibly, and they weren’t texting recklessly before. Irresponsible ones aren’t going to get smarter because there’s a law now. There’s millions of people on the road, and some of them aren’t good drivers. This isn’t going to make a difference.

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  7. GOOD.

    I bike everywhere and of all the times I’ve been involved in a close call, they’ve nearly all involved some (I’ll be diplomatic here) bozo either texting or yapping while s/he drives. And contrary to popular myth, in my experiences, it’s involved a middle aged person far, far more often than a teenager.

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  8. Paul says:

    “Responsible drivers are going to drive responsibly, and they weren’t texting recklessly before. Irresponsible ones aren’t going to get smarter because there’s a law now. There’s millions of people on the road, and some of them aren’t good drivers. This isn’t going to make a difference.”

    Interesting take on crime and punishment.

    It could make a big difference. It can actually take irresponsible drivers off the road that makes sense. One offense will take a teenage driver off the road for 6 months. Two can take an adult driver off the road (I think that is 10 points right).

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  9. I’ve never understood this distinction whereby teenager drivers are punished more severely than adult drivers for identical infractions.

    If someone is driving recklessly in the legal sense, the danger is in the actual action as it relates to its threat (or actual harm) to others, not in the age of the person. If I’m riding my bike and I get hit by someone texting while driving, it matters zilch to me whether the driver was 18 or 59.

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