By JON CAMPBELL
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - Motorists beware: State Police will be watching for your cell phones over the holiday.
Troopers will be cracking down on drivers using their phones and other electronic devices during the Thanksgiving travel rush, Gov. Andrew announced Thursday.
"Over the Thanksgiving holiday we will be stepping up our enforcement measures to send a clear message to drivers: keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel," Cuomo said in a statement. "Using a handheld device while driving is illegal and puts the lives and safety of New Yorkers on the road at risk."
The crackdown, which administration officials are calling "Operation Hang-up," will be funded through a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The grant will allow State Police to devote greater resources to watching for distracted drivers, according to Cuomo's office.
In July, a new state law took effect, boosting the penalty for texting while driving and making it a primary offense. Previously, police officers had to pull drivers over for a separate infraction in order to charge them with a texting violation.
Here in Erie County State Police in Clarence, and along the Thruway have issued 294 tickets. Out of that Troop "A" in Clarence issued 107 of those tickets.
Captain Steven Negreilli told 2 On Your Side State Police are also sending out a trooper in an unmarked vehicle to specifically look for cell phone violators.
"You wouldn't know it as a State Police vehicle until the lights come on. The lights are concealed and it just hit the road this Tuesday and in the last 2 and a half days Troopers have issued over 25 cell phone tickets here in Erie County," said Negrelli.
Drivers using electronic devices while driving can be hit with a $150 fine and three points on their driver's license.
Violations have skyrocketed since the new texting law took effect, a review by Gannett's Albany Bureau recently found. From July through mid-September of this year, the number of tickets issued outpaced all of 2010 by 43 percent statewide and 73 percent outside of New York City.
"Drivers must eliminate distractions and behaviors that take their attention from the road and unnecessarily puts lives at risk," State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said in a statement. "During this enhanced enforcement period, troopers will ticket those drivers who ignore this law and use a mobile device while driving."