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Police bulk up patrols to tackle texting and driving

By ANNA MEILER

MARCY, N.Y. (WKTV) -- It may only take a second or two to text while driving, but it also only takes a second or two to crash. On Thursday, police began an aggressive, five-day crackdown on distracted driving.

Parked in the concealed identity traffic enforcement vehicle, it took New York State Trooper Jeffrey Ruhmel less than ten minutes to spot a driver on the phone.

"They don't realize who it is and they stay on the phone as they drive right by us," said Trooper Ruhmel.

The lights go on, the sirens flare and off he goes. Police say excuses run the gamut.

"This is the first time I looked at the phone. I just heard it ring and I didn't realize what I was doing, I got a notification of a message," said Captain Francis Coots, New York State Police.

But they're falling on deaf ears. Especially this week as both local and state agencies crack down. More than 3,000 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Police want to bring those numbers down.

"What is more important? That two second text they're sending or the safety and the lives of the people in their vehicle and other users of the highway?" said Capt. Coots.

And if you think it's okay to text at a stop sign or red light, think again. Police say you should never have a phone in your hand when behind the wheel.

"You're going to get a ticket. There's no if's and's or but's about it. This is a time of the year we're not giving any breaks at all," said Capt. Coots.

Young drivers should be extra cautious. If they're caught using a cell phone while driving after Nov. 1 they will get their license suspended for four months.

While Operation Hang Up only lasts five days, police want you to remember that, "Just because next Tuesday or Wednesday rolls around the detail itself may stop, but that doesn't mean the enforcement stops. It's going to be continuous," said Capt. Coots.

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