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back to article HEADS UP, text-flinging drivers! A cop in a huge SUV is snooping on you

New York's finest have bought a fleet of big SUVs that will allow them to look down into other driver's vehicles and catch commuters texting while driving. The 32 monster gas-burners purchased by the state police are dubbed Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) and are cruising the streets of the state unmarked so that …

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Unhappy

Won't work, they'll just breed a better class of idiot.

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Gottcha

The idiots down here point out to the cops that they weren't texting (forbidden by law) but were updating their facebook page ... that's not covered by the law which explicitly refers to SMS texting.

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Facepalm

Re: Gottcha

that's not covered by the law which explicitly refers to SMS texting.

Which is a perfect demonstration of why having thousands of specifically targeted microlaws is a dumb idea. One basic law covering "driving without due care and attention" is all that is required, with the courts able to decide what "due care" means. That's what they are there for, after all, to interpret the law.

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Re: Gottcha

I'll take specific laws over krazy katch-all laws any day.

It's much more difficult for the police to abuse the specific ones.

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Re: Gottcha

It's much more difficult for the police to abuse the specific ones.

The courts are there to stop that. The police job is just to report the suspected offence, with evidence to support their position..

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Re: Phil O'Sophical

Going to court to defend yourself from ridiculous charges due to over-reaching laws is not without monetary and psychological costs, and it clogs up the courts too.

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Pint

"...fiddling with their GPS..."

Huh? Where exactly is the line drawn for THAT ? Is the button for the built-in GPS about an inch below the AC button?

.:confused:.

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Re: "...fiddling with their GPS..."

You generally don't have to type an address into an AC controller.....

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Re: "...fiddling with their GPS..."

You're not allowed to use ANY ***handheld*** electronic device, including a stand-alone GPS unit or the GPS in your phone. The only exception is answering a call or dialing 911. But if you're not actually HOLDING the device, it's OK. Even if a normally portable device is attached to the car, it's OK to use it. But still dangerous.

The conviction rate was low, because if the phone was in your lap and the cop was in his car, then he can't say for sure you were texting. Because you're innocent until proven guilty, people would always challenge such a ticket in court and win. The SUVs help the cops actually see you texting, which is supposed to solve that problem. Unless of course you're also driving an SUV.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...fiddling with their GPS..."

> You generally don't have to type an address into an AC controller.....

You'd be surprised how advanced those things are getting these days. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...fiddling with their GPS..."

>. Because you're innocent until proven guilty, people would always challenge such a ticket in court and win

Except in Floria where they would just drag you out of the car and shoot you

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...fiddling with their GPS..."

"Except in Floria where they would just drag you out of the car and shoot you"

Is that the Police or just a normal citizen?

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Anonymous Coward

It's really sad

...that there are so many braindead people on the roadways. Everyone playing with an electronic toy should spend 30 days in jail and be heavily fined. Repeat offenders lose their license and go to jail for 6 months plus a fine that will get their attention.

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Re: It's really sad

In the state I live taking away people's freedoms to make phone calls, txt, whatever whilst driving would be akin to taking away their guns. Combine that with the seemingly accepted notion that drinking and driving is ok, ther really is no hope.

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Re: It's really sad

Radio is electronic. Are we allowed to change stations?

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Terminator

Re: It's really sad

EMP equipped wrist bracelet tags!

That would soon stop people from reoffending if they had to wear one for a week/month. They would become a social leper as they wouldn't be able to use electronic devices, and nobody would go near them for fear of not being able to use their own electronic devices.

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Re: It's really sad

"Radio is electronic. Are we allowed to change stations?"

I upvoted you on this (regardless of the smart arse droids who downvoted you).

In Australia, we have strict (but on subsequent observation) fair rulings on phones.

Any handling of a phone aside from the answer button is illegal, and the phone must be mounted in a factory designed mount (if you need to press a button). Exceptions are, if you don't need to press the phone button (handsfree), the phone can be stowed anywhere aside from your lap. You're also allowed to briefly handle the phone in order to pass it to a passenger for answering. GPS units fall under 'navigational' devices, and are entirely legal as long as they're also mounted on a factory mount, and can be 'fiddled' if you need to. But the phone can't be fiddled.

Handling microphones of a CB radio is entirely legal, be it a fixed radio, or hand held unit. Entirely legal.

There is a special provision if you are in your early twenties, female, and drive a small car that mommy and daddy bought for you: You must hold your phone to your ear, send/receive texts, and facebook everyone you know of the preceeding phone calls and texts. I haven't been able to find documented evidence of that in law, but based on common observeration, it obviously must be allowed.

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Holmes

I haven't noticed any reduction in drivers with permanently-attached phones, on either coast or in between. I did see an idiot make an illegal turn with a marked police car right behind—I couldn't see whether the driver needed their phone to be removed from the ear and inserted somewhere else, but I can certainly guess.

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Problem with a lot of these laws, where they try to proscribe what is allowed and what is not is that it creates inconsistency. Is fiddling with the car radio distraction?

What we really need is a reason to trust the judgment of cops again and have them book people for driving while distracted, a statute which we have had for a *long* time.

Picking out a long list of official things that are distracting is a road to nowhere good and it will just make the ensuing litigation all the more complex (e.g. banning phone use, but what about this iPad?)

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"book people for driving while distracted, a statute which we have had for a *long* time."

The problem with that is that the officers can't book anyone for driving distracted until they have evidence, i.e. the offender has a near miss or an accident, which doesn't really gel with the police goal of prevention. If we trust the judgement of cops then we have to trust that they campaigned for years to get using phones while driving banned for good reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with that is that the officers can't book anyone for driving distracted until they have evidence, i.e. the offender has a near miss or an accident

Nonsense. When you're in charge of 1+ ton of vehicle you must give 100% of your attention to driving it. If you're doing anything else you are by definition distracted.

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"If you're doing anything else you are by definition distracted."

True. We are fortunate however to live in a society where the police need evidence to charge you with an offence, and until using a mobile while driving was explicitly in the books as a no no, people got away with it unless they were caught having a whoopsie with another car or the kerb etc.

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> True. We are fortunate however to live in a society where the police need evidence to charge you with an offence, and until using a mobile while driving was explicitly in the books as a no no, people got away with it unless they were caught having a whoopsie with another car or the kerb etc.

Yes, but you're unfortunately falling into the common trap of forgetting what the law is trying to address.

The problem is accidents, not distraction. If that were the case, the the police would not be allowed to used laptops and radios lest they crash into someone.

In days gone by, your evidence would be given by a police officer detailing what he saw and how, in his opinion, you were not paying proper attention. Even if we did have a law about using a mobile phone, we have to have a police officer testifying to seeing you using it, or catch it on a camera.

The current situation now involves a ton of people getting booked for using a mobile phone while driving without ever being involved in an accident. So banning mobile phone use feels intuitively like you're doing something worthy about the problem, in actual fact all it does is criminalise a lot of people that aren't doing any harm whatsoever without making any difference to the accident rate.

It would still be a crime to use a mobile phone while driving if it caused an accident without making it explicitly so.

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This post has been deleted by its author

"You can see how oblivious they are to this vehicle," Trooper Clayton Howell told the Associated Press, who went out for a ride in one of the, er, stealth SUVs. "I'm right next to them, and they have no idea."

They could have painted the SUV's neon yellow, and put blinking lights on the side that said POLICE TXTR BUSTIN SQUAD and they would be oblivious as most the people who txt while driving could ram someone, and not even notice.

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Anonymous Coward

That title...

Ok, so this article is not about mobile telephony driver development then. The title sounded a lot more promising if seen on that light. :-(

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"Re: It's really sad

Radio is electronic. Are we allowed to change stations?"

Well, if it's one of those stupid touch screen setups, you really shouldn't be. These are defective by design and really should not be permitted on the road. Mine? Buttons and knobs, I don't have to look down to change it.

Anyway, I think quite simply they should just have a blanket "distracted driving" law that is enforced rather than these specifics. They can then just make it clear that texting is covered under the definition of distracted driving, instead of making numerous specific laws. I do hope the parking lot and rest stop thing doesn't include *parked* cars. Not parked? Yeah, they should be ticketed, as they are still not paying attention to where they are going.

I almost feel that they should not bother with the unmarked vehicles -- distracted drivers are usually so distracted they would not notice a full-blown marked SUV anyway, and this in and of itself is clear evidence they were very distracted.

These are just details though, distracted drivers are highly dangerous and should have very stiff penalties.

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Highly Optional

"Radio is electronic. Are we allowed to change stations?"

Well, if it's one of those stupid touch screen setups, you really shouldn't be."

Can't agree more. My 'entertainment system' is a 9 inch touchscreen for station selection, input selection, audio functions and doG knows what else, and hitting the right spot without looking is damn near impossible.

Oh, and it also gives you a touch keypad when using the phone on Bluetooth.

At least most of the audio controls are replicated on the steering wheel, but have you ever tried switching to USB, selecting a track, setting the volume and EQ and STILL having attention to spare for steering out of the path of the approaching 15 tonner?

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Motorbikes

Bikes would be a better way to do it. Filter between lanes and catch them at it. Sadly since the laws appeared in the UK, in an attempt not to be seen texting, people are now looking down at the concealed phone - as well as not concentrating.

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4,000,000 Motorcycles and counting - and many drivers are ambidextrous ...

as they have learned to text with their left hands whilst the right hand controls the accelerator and steers the bike.

One of the many other infractions Vietnamese drivers commit is to use the fast (cars only) lane, then turn sharp right across the legal motorcycle lane. As you might imagine doing this manoeuvre WITHOUT signals can be risky.

But, add the texting PLUS unannounced right turns and you have the recipe for TROUBLE! Even though the law has a mandatory fine equivalent to between 4% to 9% of a drivers monthly salary, people still continue to do it.

It would be safer to make voice calls - motorcycle riders dial the number then hold the cell handset to their ear using the safety helmet chin strap to keep it in place. But the law has another section for that, too. No motorcycle rider may drive a motorcycle with earphones, speakers, etc. working!

But I must admit I break that law when I make the 320 kilometre trip between Ho Chi Minh City and my home town of Buon Ma Thuot overnight. I have a 25-watt amplifier driving a large outdoor horn speaker under my seat, in the boot/trunk, so I can listen to music as I drive through countryside. Andre Rieu or Springsteen sounds great at 25 watts in a long tunnel.

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Re: 4,000,000 Motorcycles and counting - and many drivers are ambidextrous ...

Hey, Buon Ma Tout - home of great coffee beans! I've still got some green Buon Ma Thout beans in my freezer. Have you still got that tank on a roundabout that I cycled past 20 years ago?

I could make voice calls via the microphone and speakers in my helmet, but I like to concentrate on the road, so I've detached the microphone and only listen to Digital Doris (GPS). I don't want to die yet. A little 'darn' of silver thread on the finger tips of gloves makes it possible to interact with a capacitive screen, but I still don't send txts while riding. Refrain: I don't want to die yet!

English pedant sez: you ride or pilot a motorbike. Drivers drive cars, cows, geese, etc.

When are we going to get a biker icon? Ogri FTW!

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Re: 4,000,000 Motorcycles and counting - and many drivers are ambidextrous ...

Christ. Do you just embolden words based on the roll of a die? I like the times the die chose certain words within an already-bold sentence for capitalisation also

I bet you're one of those people who spits in your face when they talk to you

we don't say anything, but inside we're disgusted

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Revenue?

Maybe the cops will write more tickets about the idiots that want to be distracted. It ought to be pretty easy to detect. Just measure the length of time from the cruiser's read light to the actual driver getting the message. If they were distracted, it will be a VERY (relatively) time.

Yes, more tickets for this type of thing. We may yet balance the budget!

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Unhappy

Just Sayin'

First off, texters are a menace. But holding your phone to talk is no more hazardous than hands free. It is the talking and listening that distracts the driver.

It's no surprise people can't drive when distracted. They can't drive at the best of times. Where I am, the education and testing is a sham; a joke. Around the block, parallel park and you are unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with these type of laws, they don't address the real problem. The real issue is that people are distracted by other things than driving like they should. Get rid of no texting, no this, no that laws and just create a single law that says driving while distracted is an offense. Kids yelling in the car and the mom, turning around to tend to them, fat Joe downing his bucket of cola and KFC bucket while driving, etc. would all be illegal.

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"and just create a single law that says driving while distracted is an offense."

We have just that in the UK, "driving without due care and attention". But prosecutors often struggle to make it stick in court, and as a result the police demand politicians pass specific tangible laws such as making it illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving, in the manner of nice, easy to enforce speed limits, where the test of compliance is simple and easily recorded.

After an accident it may be quite easy to pin a "without due care" charge on somebody, or if they've been videoed doing something stupid, or they 'fess up when the police stop them. But its actually very difficult to prove that somebody has not been paying attention before the event, which is what such a law is intended to address.

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'We have just that in the UK, "driving without due care and attention".'

And it is implemented differently over the UK. Some areas they lift you when drinking from a bottle of water with a sports cap when sitting at the lights (a warning I was given when flying south) but in other areas they are a little more lenient.

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" ... but in other areas they are a little more sensible."

That reads much better.

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Anonymous Coward

I applaud the subtle approach

but given the price of fuel, wouldn't it be more economical to buy 32 of those one-wheel unicycles, where the policeman (woman) sit on top balancing forward and back? They'd be sitting way high, head-mounted camera, they'd be able to move through all kind of traffic... they'd be attractive with tourists... they'd make the terrorists uneasy... really, I can't see why not!

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Anonymous Coward

dangerous driving

When the mind is concentrating on a gadget, the mind does wander from the road ahead.

Take this example, where it could be someone on the phone, but many think its someone on drink/drugs. Hard to tell these days.

www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1439758879580491

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure I'm the only one but ...

95% of the just avoided car crash I was involved with, in the last 5 years was down to an idiot clearly phoning or texting.

I live in east of France by the way, but the same happened also in Switzerland ...

Clearly, at least in those 2 states, and surely elsewhere, law enforcement is lacking.

However, I really don't think having a high enough vehicle will even reduce this practise. The coppers wanted a big badass car, me think.

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