Texting and driving has become a significant problem for drivers. My family and I have lived in Lancaster, New York for the past twenty years. Every morning, I take the inbound 33 to get to my office in downtown Buffalo. It upsets me how many people I see talking on their cell phones, or, even worse, texting while driving at 50 miles per hour.
In addition to making me angry, it scares me. And the evidence supports my fear.
A recent study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting increased the risk of a crash or near crash to more than 23 times that of “nondistracted” driving.
This behavior happens everyday in roads all over Western New York.
Newspapers are full of texting and driving accidents:
A Lackawanna police officer was injured when a driver who was texting swerved, forcing the officer to veer off the road. Read the article
A New Jersey teenager was texting when he veered into the opposite lane and collided with a motorcycle occupied by a married couple who each lost a leg in the crash. Read the article
A Utah man crossed over the double yellow line in the road and crashed head-on into two scientist on their way to work. A police investigation revealed that he had been texting his girlfriend at the time of the accident. Read the article
According to a recent article in The Buffalo News, New York recently passed tougher penalties for this dangerous conduct. In addition to the tougher penalties, the state also toughened enforcement. During a recent two-month crackdown, state troopers issued 5,533 tickets for texting while driving, compared to 924 in the same period last year – an increase of about 600 percent.
But New York isn’t merely ordering drivers not to text and raising the pain threshold for those who do not comply. The state has also rebranded the 91 existing rest areas and turnoffs on the Thruway and other highways as “texting zones.” Some of these areas are advertised with highway signs reading, “It can wait. Text Stop 5 miles.”
There are many reasons car accidents occur due to negligence in Western New York. Primary concerns in the recent past to watch out for on the roads have been drunk drivers, low seat belt use, speeding, fatigued drivers, and inexperienced or distracted teen drivers.
It may surprise you to know that today, the distraction of cell phone use accounts for nearly 25% of all crashes (NHTSA). Drivers engaged in cell phone use, which is not limited to texting, but includes internet use, as well as use of GPS navigation systems, are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
What are the laws on cell phone use, texting or sending email while you operate a vehicle in NYS?
Under New York State law you cannot use a hand-held mobile telephone or send a text or an email while you drive. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive, except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency, or use a device to text or send email.
In 2013, several changes were made to stiffen the penalties for these violations as described below.
For offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013, this violation carries five driver violation points.
New Suspensions and Revocations for Probationary and Junior Drivers
For violations that occur on and after July 1, 2013, the following changes affect drivers with probationary driver licenses, Class DJ or Class MJ driver licenses or learner permits:
A first conviction will result in suspension of the driver license or permit for 60 days.
A second conviction within six months will result in:
Revocation of at least 6 months of a probationary license, or a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit.
Fines, Maximum Fines and Surcharges
For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and maximum fine is $150.
For a second offense, committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $200.
For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $400.
The surcharge for these violations that occur on or after July 26th is up to $93.
Motor Carriers and Commercial Vehicle Drivers
For violations committed by commercial vehicle drivers:
A motor carrier must not allow or require their drivers to use cell phones or texting devices while driving.
A mobile telephone used by a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle is not a “hands-free mobile telephone” when the driver presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone.
A commercial vehicle driver is not allowedto make a phone call or use a texting device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays.
A commercial vehicle driver who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is also presumed to be engaged in a call.
A commercial vehicle driver who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device.
I am safe talking hands free, right?
Wrong! Cell phones cause a visual distraction, obviously, but even more significant is the mental, or cognitive, distraction they create. Cell phones can cause distracted drivers to take their minds off of what they should be solely focused on . . . the primary task of driving! Drivers talking on cell phones miss half of the information in their surroundings. This could include objects, other cars, exits, and red lights. This places your life and your property in danger, should you be around a negligent driver on a cell phone.
Many lawsuits in recent years have held employers liable for employees who have crashed while using cell phones or texting.
Because of these events, most businesses in New York State have banned employees from using cell phones while driving altogether. The National Safety Council recommends for businesses to record a voice mail telling callers they are driving at the moment, and that it is not safe to make or receive calls while driving.
What should I do if a distracted driver hits me?
Should you be unfortunate enough to become injured in an automobile accident by distracted cell phone user, you should know your rights, and seek the advice of an attorney immediately. If you believe a distracted cell phone user has struck you, there are records that can prove this.
If you were a passenger who was injured riding with a distracted driver and become injured in an accident, you have rights. You did not have control over the operations of the vehicle you were in, so you are not at fault!
In New York State, you have the right to make a claim for compensation to cover your automobile damage and/or personal injury medical bills, work hours lost, pain and suffering and other expenses. You also have the right to make a claim against the person who was using the phone who caused the accident.
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident because someone was talking on their cell phone or texting, immediately call Dan Lukasik at 674-2424 for a free consultation in one of our convenient offices located in Lockport, Niagara Falls, Amherst, West Seneca, Buffalo or Olean.
Our Commitment to You: Personal Injury? Personal Attention.