Police cracking down on distracted driving
Police across Long Island are cracking down on drivers talking or texting on their phones as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
New York state and local police departments have launched "Operation Hang Up." They are targeting drivers who are using their phones while behind the wheel.
Ben Liberman's 19-year-old son was killed five years ago in a car crash that he says was caused by a driver who was texting.
"When people start coming to terms that this is an impairment, and this needs to be dealt with like an impairment, I think we'll make progress," Liberman says.
Officials say texting or talking on a cellphone can be as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel. Some drivers have even been caught using laptops, tablet devices or watching videos while driving.
But it's still a very common problem. Chuck DeWeese, a member of the governor's Traffic Safety Committee, says police in Suffolk issued more than 10,000 tickets in 2015 to drivers for cellphone use and texting combined. In Nassau, police issued more than 8,000.
"Make no mistake, distracted driving is a real problem in New York and across the country," DeWeese says. "But it's also a problem that can get better."
Suffolk Police Officer Jim Weik says using a mobile device while driving is as dangerous as having a blood alcohol content of .08.
Anyone caught texting or talking while driving faces a fine upward of $200 and five points on their license. Police say a quick text or email just isn't worth a ticket or risking another person's life.