Is New York's Fight Against Distracted Driving Effective?

In light of overwhelming evidence proving the danger of distracted driving, many states have implemented strategies to put an end to the practice. New York, for example, passed legislation in 2009 outlawing texting and e-mailing while driving. But New York's law is one of the weaker anti-texting laws on the books, permitting only secondary enforcement. That means that law enforcement may only issue a citation to a driver who is texting or e-mailing while driving if they stop the driver for another offense, such as speeding.

Secondary laws are notoriously ineffective, and New York police report that they have ticketed very few drivers since the law took effect in November. Among five counties surveyed, only one reported issuing a ticket for texting, and that was a single instance. The fine for texting while driving in New York is $150.

Hand-held cell phone use while driving was banned in New York in 2001 except in emergencies, with violators subject to a $100 fine.

Distracted driving became a hot-button issue last fall when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood convened a summit to address its dangers. Among the dangers cited:

  • Distracted driving associated with cell phones alone causes 2,600 deaths, 333,000 injuries and 1.5 million property damage claims each year
  • The annual cost associated with cell-phone related crashes is $43 billion
  • Cell phone related crashes represent 6 percent of all crashes linked to distracted driving

Although 80 percent of all vehicle crashes result from driver distraction, according to a joint National Highway Transportation Safety Administration-Virginia Tech Transportation Institute 2006 study, New York, like many states, has moved cautiously in addressing them. Drivers may love their gadgets, but evidence is mounting that gadgets and driving simply do not mix.

While many states have addressed cell phone use with legislation, no state has attempted to curb the use of in-car global positioning systems. Like cell phones and mp3 players, GPS systems are likely to cause crashes because they require the driver to look away from the road.

According to one 2006 study, using a GPS while driving is more dangerous than unfolding and reading a paper map. Drivers in one British study confirmed the dangers cited in the study, with one in 10 telling researchers that GPS use caused them to make a dangerous, late or illegal turn.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident involving a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer experienced in personal injury claims can provide you with the information necessary to protect your rights.

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