April is Distracted Driving Awareness month and this has not slipped unnoticed past the New York State Police. This month they are conducting “Operation Hang Up” which will focus on drivers violating the state’s ban on the use of any and all handheld devices by drivers.

New York has some of the toughest laws on distracted driving in the United States. Even before the National Transportation safety Board released its findings that distracted driving caused more fatal crashes than driving under the influence of alcohol (last December) New York already had a comprehensive ban on the use of handheld devices and texting by drivers. When the NTSB asked all states to immediately ban the use of handheld devices, new York stepped up their vigilance against distracted driving and made the use of these banned items by drivers a primary offense, meaning police could make stops on violators and issue citations on the spot.

Now state police are getting into the game, issuing tickets to drivers they see cruising the state highways with cell phones in hand, either talking or texting. This is resulting in a win fall of extra revenue for the state, which they can in turn use to promote driver awareness not only of the state law banning the use of these devices, but also on the dangers of distracted driving in general.

The NTSB study was not the only one which showed a dramatic rise in the number of crashes and traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving. A UC Berkely study, and a number of independent insurance company studies also point to a rise in distracted driving crashes as a sign of the changing tide in dangerous driving. With added enforcement and new laws coming into play more and more drivers are going to receive a serious wake-up call when it comes to distracted driving. And who knows, all this attention might finally get through to those drivers who still think its ok to email, update their Facebook status, of chit-chat on the cell when they are supposed to be focusing on driving safely.