(WKTV) - State police say the number of tickets issued for texting while driving and distracted driving is on the rise.
And the big reason for that is Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Since he took office, the governor has made safe driving a priority and set aside money. The funds are not only for more enforcement, but for a tool, which for troopers has proven to be invaluable in catching people violating the traffic laws.
Many people admit to getting stopped after passing a trooper they didn't notice was sitting there.
"Honesty, yeah. I have," said Deerfield resident Brett Korrie.
But did you know that troopers across the state are also sitting on the side of the road in unmarked vehicles?
"To tell you the truth, no," said Mary Fiorentino, a Utica resident.
Police say that strategy works -- and it works well.
"Some of them might be speeding," said Trooper Michael Petrie of New York State Police Troop D, "They don't see the lights, they don't see the marked unit, so they don't slow down. So it's easier to get them."
Petrie works out of the Herkimer Barricks in Troop D and says the concealed identity traffic enforcement vehicle -- or cite vehicles -- catch a lot more than just speeders.
"With this, they don't even realize it's a police vehicle," Petrie said. "And you can pull right along side them and you're high enough you can actually see right down in the vehicle. You can see them texting and see them on their phone."
And how do local residents feel about that?
"Generally, people drive too fast," said Rome resident Nelson Rudiak. "There seems to be a propensity for that and it seems to be getting greater and greater. So if we can slow things down, I'm all for that."
Petrie says the number of speeders ticketed in Herkimer County -- whether from a marked or an unmarked police vehicle -- is highest along the busiest roadway in the county outside of the Thruway, which is Route 5S that connects Utica with the valley.
"It's probably one of the most patrolled roads in Herkimer County as far as police presence," Petrie said.
But Petrie says texting and distracted driving tickets are spread out all over, thanks in large parts to these unmarked vehicles.
Police say if you are caught talking, texting or using the Internet on your cell phone, you will be ticketed -- guaranteed.
The number of speeding tickets in Oneida County is about even for this point in the year over last year, but texting while driving tickets are up more than 40 percent and tickets for cell phone usage is up 64 percent over last year.