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Cell Phone and Texting Update

The next session of the New York State Legislature provides for consideration of a bill that will totally ban the use of cell phones while driving. The only exemption would be for calls in an emergency. This bill would be among the first in the nation to be considered. New York has a history of being in the forefront of distracted driving issues, having passed the first ever ban of handheld cell phone use while driving.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data for 2009, drivers who are texting or using handheld devices are on the rise while cellphone use (driver holding the phone to the ear) has stayed the same. About 674,000 drivers were holding phones to their ears while driving at any given moment in 2010.

There is no doubt that distracted driving kills and seriously injures many people. More than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2010 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

Other bills that the legislature will be considering include the following:

  • Assembly bill 2668 bans the display of video in the front seat area of a vehicle, within view of the driver.
  • Assembly bill 1961 requires the police to list on accident reports whether a cell phone was in use when the accident occurred.
  • Assembly bill 3718 requires that texting and handheld cell phone laws apply when vehicles are stopped at stop signs, traffic lights, railroad crossings or due to heavy traffic.

Persons who cause accidents while engaging in distracted driving may be the subject of a lawsuit.

Drivers Distracted by Web Surfing

Smart phones enable additional distractions while driving that can cause serious accidents. Talking on a cell phone in New York requires a hands-free system, and texting while driving is also banned. Yet there are other forms of distractions: visual, auditory, manual and cognitive. Whether it’s looking at something besides the road; listening to conversation, the radio, music, or an audio book; fiddling with the radio or an iPod rather than holding onto the steering wheel; or thinking about things unrelated to driving – all are distractions that are particularly dangerous for novice drivers. A distracted driver is involved in 15 – 30 percent of all car accidents.

The latest distraction to surface as a result of smart phones is surfing the web while driving. In a 2012 study conducted by State Farm Insurance, some shocking statistics were revealed. For those drivers 18 – 29 years old, accessing the Internet while driving increased from 29 percent  in 2009 to 48 percent  in 2012. Older drivers, of course, are far less likely to be surfing, if only because they are less dependent upon their phones. Among younger drivers, 36 percent read social media networks while behind the wheel and another 30 percent even update their profiles while driving. Checking email has also increased among younger drivers, rising from 32 percent in 2009 to 43 percent  in 2012.

The Governors Highway Safety Association has published ten tips to avoid distractions.  Share these tips with loved ones, especially new and young drivers. The number one tip: turn off or silence your cell phone when getting into the car. An estimated 5,870 people died and another 515,000 were injured in car accidents involving some form of distraction in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Don’t become a statistic. And if you are the victim of a distracted driver, seek skilled legal guidance right away.