ALBANY, N.Y., July 7 (UPI) -- The New York state police began a statewide summer initiative to crack down on distracted driving using unmarked sports utility vehicles, officials say.
State Trooper Ian Henry said unmarked state police SUVs -- known as Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement Vehicles -- have a higher than average platform, giving troopers a better vantage point because they can look inside vehicles.
"We sit a little higher so you can look down into vehicles," Henry told WTEN-TV in Albany. "If you don't see both hands on steering wheel, we try to see where the other hand is."
In an hour-long ride-along, WTEN said the unmarked police vehicle could drive for a miles on a highway close to or parallel to motorists and the drivers never detected the state police -- perhaps because the drivers were texting.
One driver never noticed the unmarked SUV pull up next to him and look into his car, while minutes later another driver clocked at 70 mph while holding her phone up to the steering wheel never noticed the undercover police vehicle following close behind, WTEN said.
In 2012, state and local law enforcement officials ticketed more than 200,000 people for the use of a cellphone while driving, but since then the state approved stiffer penalties for using a cellphone while driving, WTEN said.