Pull over before you text or talk on the road

The state police are cracking down this week on the use of cell phones throughout the county and on the Thruway.

The semi-annual Operation Hang Up will last until Sunday, and will see increased patrols on county roads and along the Thruway. The maximum fine for talking on your cell phone while driving is $100, with a $60 state surcharge. The maximum fine for texting while driving, or using your phone to surf the Internet or play games while behind the wheel, is $150, with an $80 state surcharge.

"Using a cell phone while driving is illegal and puts other motorists in danger," said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in a release. "After the huge success of the first Operation Hang Up — when more than 800 distracted drivers were ticketed — this second campaign will enable State Police to step up enforcement measures to send a clear message to drivers: keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel."

According to the state police, drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, and that the behavior of such drivers is equivalent to the behavior of drunk drivers at the threshold of the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Texting increases the risk more than 23 times. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed more than 3,000 deaths last year to distracted driving.

"Electronic devices have become commonplace in our lives, but they have no place in the hands of a driver," said Major Rodney W. Campbell, commander of Troop D in Oneida.

"I’ve instructed our troopers to take a zero tolerance stance."

Drivers may only use a cell phone to call 9-1-1 or to contact fire, medical or police officials about an emergency.