Texting while driving is a form of distraction that leads to deadly consequences. This is not only true for local news stories around New York City and the Bronx but recognized as a national phenomenon. In 2014, 3,179 people died and 431,000 were injured due to the carelessness of a distracted driver.
It is no coincidence that these incidents increased with smartphone ownership. Tickets for cell phone usage and texting increased after new laws passed banning both practices while driving. These same trends continue showing that pedestrians and motorists still face danger from distracted drivers who are likely texting when they should be watching the road. Here is an overview of that situation here in New York.
What’s Going On In New York?
Texting while driving falls under the purview of distracting driving. This includes any activity that takes attention from the task at hand, which includes texting, talking on cell phones, manipulating devices and eating or drinking or while driving. For that reason, ‘distracted driving’ and ‘texting while driving’ are frequently discussed in the same context.
National statistics paint a grim picture. In its 2014 report on Injury Facts, the National Safety Council revealed a connection between smart phone use and auto crashes. Using cell phones while driving was estimated to be involved in 26 percent of motor vehicle accidents. Five percent of accidents involved texting and 21 percent involved drivers talking on a handheld or hands-free cell phone system.
Ticketing for Distracted Driving
In New York, trends are apparent through ticketing rates. Between 2012 and 2013, tickets issued for texting while driving increased dramatically. In New York City, the number of these tickets increased by 82 percent in 2013 as compared to 2012. The rest of New York saw an increase of 89 percent. In Bronx County, the rate of ticketing for texting and driving almost doubled between 2012 and 2014. There were 1,685 tickets issued in 2012 and that increased to 2,966 in 2014. In 2014, 78.3 percent of those ticketed were repeat offenders.
Tickets for talking on cell phones still outnumbers the texting while driving ones. However, unlike the texting tickets which increase each year, the cell phone violations decrease each year. In the Bronx, that number decreased from 12,412 in 2012 to 7,996 in 2014.
However, the number of tickets issued does not necessarily mean the practice of texting and driving is increasing. Police have better resources for detecting the violation and ticketing it. Driving larger SUVs and finding stake-out spots with a better view that allows police to see what drivers are manipulating behind the wheel. The violation was also upgraded to a primary offense in 2011 instead of a secondary one. Before, a driver needed to be stopped for another traffic violation first. There was no standing to pull over a driver for just texting and driving. Now, between making this a primary offense and giving police better resources, it is expected tickets would increase.
Texting and Driving Prevention Measures
The ticketing rate shows the practice is not going by the wayside. Awareness campaigns and tougher laws are the means of prevention here in New York. A first offense results in a fine of $50 to $200 with that range increasing to $250 after the second offense within 18 months. Subsequent offenses can result in fines up to $450.
Penalties are especially harsh for teen drivers. The first offense for a probationary or junior driver with a class DJ or MJ driver’s license or permit is a suspension of 120 days. If there is a second violation within six months of the restoration of the license or permit, that suspension increases to one year. This focus is reasonable considering that 10 percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old were reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash.
The problem that has since arisen is that the sheer number of these tickets has meant that some cases are thrown out for lack of administrative resources. This means that the intentions of the law are not coming through for all individuals and that likely explains the high repeat-offender rate in the Bronx. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds the effectiveness of these laws in discouraging the texting-while-driving habit requires further study. Since many bans are very recent, it will take time to see their long term effects. New York with its steadily rising ticketing rate likely falls under this pattern too.
At this point, the deadliness of texting while driving is well apparent. Distracted driving all types, including texting, increases the likelihood of carelessness that leads to injury accidents. If you are driving, it is best to follow the advice of the awareness campaigns and let that text wait. Pull over into a parking area or other safe spot if you absolutely must see the contents of a text.
If you sustain injuries due to a driver texting and driving, call the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond at (877) 960-1702. We specialize in personal injuries linked to driving negligence, including distracted driving. The consultation is free.