As we continue our new segment, "Driving It Home," our Megan Cruz joined State Police for a ride along in a CITE vehicle, as troopers try to crack down on cell phone use.
"Technology has just come so far, it's made it more convenient for people in so many ways,” says Trooper Scott Shriner. “It's just found its way out during the driving and onto the highways, creating problems there for us."
Trooper Shriner is out on a special assignment today - catching distracted drivers.
"Looks like he's on his phone,” said Shriner. “Now he's slowly bringing it down.”
"How you doing sir? License and registration?" Shriner asked a person he just pulled over.
"We're sometimes looked at as the bad guys for having to go out and enforce the law, but if someone makes it from their destination home safely and can kiss their loved one good night that night, then we've done our job,” he said.
A job that needs doing, and has become one of the top 3 priorities of the New York State Police.
"It's far more serious than most people think,” said Sgt. Dan Larkin, the Traffic Supervisor for Troop G. “In fact over 5,000 people each year are killed in the United States as a result of distracted driving and a couple 100,000 are injured."
If you’re thinking those incidents may be because they were just bad drivers, think again. Studies show that cell phone use while driving, whether hand-held or not, impairs a person the same way that having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 does. As you should know, that’s considered a DWI.
"You'll see a vehicle that will cross over the double solid line, cross over the white line,” said Shriner. “Obviously they're not paying attention to where they're going."
"We're going to issue him a citation,” said Shriner, as he pulled over another driver for talking on his cell phone.
"History shows that that's the way we've been able to change behavior with seat belts, drunk driving speeding,” said Sgt. Larkin.
And another valuable tactic in their pursuit of these distracted drivers is this vehicle, which we’ve been asked not to show on TV. It's called a CITE vehicle, short for Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicle. The State Police says they plan to roll out about 40 this year.
"The more that we can educate society and the more they start to realize that it does make a difference - less fatalities, less accidents - I think people will begin to except it more,” said Shriner. “That it's being done for a reason."