News that the number texting-while-driving tickets went up 82 percent in the past year for a 2013 statewide total of 55,000 was a gratifying milestone for the mother of a young man who died while texting.
“That’s incredible. Absolutely incredible,” said Kelly Cline, who helped organize Families Against Texting While Driving with Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo. Even though the group successfully lobbied to get the current version of the law passed in 2011, she said, having police issue tickets is essential for it work.
“We can fight for the laws. We can get the laws passed. It’s all about enforcement. If the police didn’t enforce it, it wouldn’t mean anything at all,” she said. “It means that they believe in it, too. I couldn’t be happier. That is absolutely fantastic.”
The law now allows officers to stop drivers who they see texting. An earlier version only let officers cite motorists for texting if there was another, “primary” offense, like speeding.
Her son A.J. Larson, 20, died in 2007 when he ran a stop sign and was hit by a garbage truck as he was leaving his family’s Clinton Street neighborhood in West Seneca. A police investigation found he had been texting.
“I decided I had to do something,” she said.
Cline said she has been pleased with the support from Kennedy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who she met when he made the trip here to sign the bill.
In his state of the state address last month, Cuomo said he intends to add to the law and suspend the licenses for a year if drivers under 20 are caught texting while driving.
“He just grabbed it and ran with it,” Cline said of Cuomo. “It seems like every year he’s improved it and strenghthend it.”