Truckers, watch that cell phone use: New York troopers are cracking down

| 8/2/2002

In the last six months, police have ticketed more than 30,000 drivers across the state for using hand-held cell phones. As part of the crackdown, police must check a box on accident reports that indicates whether cell phone use contributed to the accident.

Last November, New York became the first state to pass a law outlawing the practice of driving with a hand-held cell phone. According to a published release, drivers were given a one-month grace period during which police issued warnings. In December, police began giving tickets carrying fines of up to $100 for a first offense. Most of the tickets issued have been in conjunction with speeding violations, according to the (Albany) Times Union. And, some judges have shown leniency to out-of-state drivers who may be unfamiliar with the law, only charging visitors the mandated $35 court fee, the paper reported.

"Troopers do take this offense seriously, and we are continuing to ticket drivers who refuse to obey this law," said State Police Sgt. Glenn Miner. "Once the officer confirms there is a hand-held phone in the vehicle, it would provide the probable cause to write a ticket."

In the first month troopers issued 303 tickets, statewide. But over the next five months troopers nearly doubled that monthly average, and by the end of May had ticketed a total of 3,479 drivers. Reportedly, that includes 375 tickets in the state's capital city.

Through the end of February, drivers were allowed to bring a receipt to court proving they had bought a hands-free device in order to get the ticket dismissed. But the grace period has expired and chatty drivers are now forking over the full fine.