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Dying to Talk: Distracted Driving in New York

Cannot make it home without texting a friend?  Need to call home to check on plans?  Just need to send one last text?  Save it.

Distracted driving is a leading factor in traffic accidents and fatalities in the United States.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates drivers using hand-held cell phones are four times more likely to cause serious injury while driving.  Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to injure or kill.

In July 2011, Governor Cuomo signed a law making use of handheld electronic devices while driving a primary offense, increasing penalty points at the same time.  Since that time, ticketed violations have soared.

Text violations in 2010 totaled 3,248.  From July 2011 to February 2012, that figure was 7,495.  Suffolk, Westchester and Nassau counties top the list for hand-held cell phone violations outside New York City.

Earlier this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood introduced federal guidelines to reduce the number of in-cab electronic devices in cars, sports utility vehicles, and light trucks.   The guidelines, proposed in February, are an initial effort to voluntarily engineer removal of navigation, entertainment, and information devices that distract drivers from their primary task — driving.

Hands-free devices are not the answer. Driving is a cognitive task employing visual, mental and physical attention.  Driving distracted is driving impaired.  Next time you drive?  Make sure that next text message is not your last.

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