Sheriff’s Office Joins NHTSA Campaign to Remind Drivers: Put the Phone Away or Pay.

During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the national “Put the Phone Away or Pay” high-visibility enforcement effort. From April 4-8, 2024, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be joining law enforcement agencies across New York State to conduct enhanced enforcement of texting and distracted-driving laws.


According to NHTSA, nearly 32,483 people died in distraction-affected crashes over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2020. In 2022, there were 330,842 deaths linked to driver distraction and an additional 289,310 people injured in traffic crashes involving distracted driving.  


“Distracted driving is a leading cause of vehicle crashes on our county’s roads, and most of this distraction is attributed to texting while driving,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. “Beginning this week, our Deputy Sheriffs will be further increasing efforts to stop drivers from distracted driving. If you text and drive in Suffolk County, we will pull you over and you will be fined.”


Violating New York’s distracted-driving laws can be costly. A first-time violation of this law is a traffic infraction with a fine between 50 and 200 dollars as well as 5 points on your license. Upon conviction of a second violation, both within 18 months, the fine is between 50 and 250 dollars as well as 5 points. Upon conviction of a third violation, all within an 18-month period, the fine is between 50 and 450 dollars as well as 5 points.


Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2022 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 93% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, nearly 40% drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.


Suffolk County Sheriff Dr. Errol D. Toulon, Jr. and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and do not drive while doing so. If you are the driver, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:


  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.

  • Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.

  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.

  • Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.



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