A new law in New York giving police the power to stop drivers engaged in using a handheld device while behind the wheel has generated more than 118,000 tickets since it was enacted in July showing that not only is distracted driving prevalent in New York, but that giving police more power to control the activity reaps big rewards for municipalities.

As a direct result of the new law the state has issued 7,495 tickets for texting while driving and 111,262 for using a handheld electronic device while driving since last July. Citations start at $150 and result in three points added to the driver’s license.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicle has been keeping tabs on just where these tickets have been issued and the reports show that Long Island is leading the way with more than 10,000 citations issued in Suffolk and Nassau counties alone.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the new distracted driving bill into law last summer he said in a press release that he hoped the added provisions would do more than just generate revenue for the state. Cuomo said he was hoping that empowering police to make stops for distracted driving violations would increase public awareness of the dangers of using a handheld device while driving.

As it turned out, Cuomo was ahead of the game when it came to warning of the dangers of distracted driving. Just last month the National Transportation Safety Board reported that distracted driving was even more dangerous than driving under the influence, resulting in more traffic fatalities than any other single cause. The NTSB went on to suggest that all states adopt a blanket prohibition on the use of handheld devices by any and all drivers with severe penalties for violators. This suggestion was met with some resentment from law makers who continue to feel the issue is best resolved by municipalities or individual states and that a nationwide ban is overkill.

Bur for New Yorkers, any steps to make the streets a safer place for everyone sounds like business as usual.

Image: Paul Martin Eldridge / FreeDigitalPhotos.net