On patrol for distracted drivers

By Matt Porter

February 19, 2013 Updated Feb 20, 2013 at 2:04 AM EDT

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Ithaca police began a two-week crack down this week on distracted drivers.

The crack down, funded by a state grant, means there will be increased patrols in Ithaca. Police will be looking for people driving while talking on a cell phone, texting or using any other electronic device.

Ithaca Officer Dana Haff said there is no specific profile of people breaking the relatively new law.

"It's really no specific gender or race or anything, everybody that drives has a cell phone it seems," Haff said.

The crackdown began Monday and will end March 1.

Haff said distracted driving accidents can often be more disastrous because people aren't paying attention.

"You see more significant injuries when there are people involved in distracted driving accidents," he said.

It took just 15 minutes Tuesday before Haff pulled over his first distracted driver using a cell phone.

"I explained why I stopped him and he admitted he was on the phone with his wife," Haff said. "He said his mother hadn't been feeling well, but it's definitely not a life or death emergency."

New York State law prohibits any use of an electronic device while the car is in motion. Even looking at your phone or iPod while driving means you're breaking the law.

Haff said distracted driving incidents are the leading cause of accidents in Ithaca.

He said most people understand the reason behind the law, even if they don't necessarily agree with it.

"They're not happy that they're going to get a ticket for it," he said, "But they understand and they admit they were in violation."

Haff said zero-tolerance crackdowns help get the message across.

"Over the years," he said, "I think it's definitely gotten to where more and more people are in compliance in the law."

Ithaca Police were awarded a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant this year. The program is run by the New York Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.