Albany considers tighter texting while driving legislation

Experienced personal injury attorneys know and understand that distracted driving is dangerous driving. The recent proliferation of personal handheld electronic devices has led to many drivers paying more attention to their electronics than they do to the road. All too often, this results in a serious or fatal accident. Increasingly, texting while driving is gaining recognition as one of the most dangerous types of distracted driving on Albany roads today.

Compared to other states, the number of New York drivers cited last year for texting while driving – just over 3,200 citations statewide and only 53 in Albany County – seems low. State lawmakers say there’s a reason. In New York, driving while texting is a secondary offense, one that can only be enforced if a driver is breaking another traffic law.

Because of the increase in the number of injuries and deaths in car accidents due to texting, officials want to make it a primary driving offense. The New York Senate is encouraging the Assembly to pass of new texting punishments, including an automatic two-point license penalty along with the $150 fine. The state Department of Motor Vehicles counted over 330,000 cell phone citations in 2010. Lawmakers say that cell phones driving laws are a priority, which is what officials say texting should be.

Studies have shown that driving while texting increases the possibility of a motorist getting into a car accident by six times, which basically makes texting as dangerous as driving drunk. In surveys, slightly less than half of younger drivers said text bans haven’t changed their texting habits.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has conducted pilot studies, one in Syracuse, that did prove successful in cutting texting offenses. A campaign of public education and “high visibility enforcement” effectively reduced citations in Syracuse over 40 percent.

Many New York lawmakers are hoping the Assembly takes the texting-while-driving Senate bill seriously before its summer recess. It is expected, as has been the case in other states that have tightened texting laws, that if texting is made a primary offense, driving the state’s roads will be safer.

Source: Buffalo News, “Push is on to make messaging while driving a primary offense,” Tom Precious, 5/10/2011

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