A recent nationwide poll conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance (in partnership with Students Against Drunk Driving-S.A.D.D.) discovered that than 90% of drivers on the road are distracted at any given time. The vast majority of those distractions come from cellphone usage in the car. Either texting while driving or talking while driving (with or without a hands-free device) has the demonstrated ability to decrease a driver’s awareness, their perception of the road around them, and their response time to hazards, pedestrians, and other motorists. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol.
An additional study by the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index found that 81% of respondents viewed texting while driving as a “very serious threat” to personal safety and the wellbeing of others, yet 35% still read text messages in the car. 27% admitted to sending messages. In New York City alone, distracted driving accidents accounted for 9,200 injuries and 41 fatalities in 2011 according to DOT statistics.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has had enough. The legislation he signed into law earlier this spring has taken effect-there will be stiffer penalties for drivers caught texting while behind the wheel. While the minimum fine allowed by law will remain at $50, first offenders will now face fines up to $150. If they incur a second offense within 18 months, that maximum jumps to $200. Third offenders will face fines up to $400.
These financial penalties are coupled with license suspension and revocation for junior and probationary license holders. Drivers with such restricted licenses will face mandatory 60-day suspension or 6-month revocation for first offenses, respectively.
The Governor’s hardened stance is in response to the tragic number of fatal and near fatal auto accidents in the state (and particularly New York City). “The good news is,” Cuomo said in a statement to ABC news. “You can change people’s behavior. It’s not easy. It’s not fast but you can do it and there’s no doubt in my mind we can save lives.”
In addition to increasing fines, the Governor has authorized budgetary increases for the State Police in order to enforce the new law. However, distracted driving will always be problem and no law will ever be able to stop every auto accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crashed caused by an inattentive driver, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation for injuries, medical expenses, and more but you must act now. Your right to compensation is subject to limitations so get in touch with a New York auto accident attorney today. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation to learn your rights at 646-736-2777 or 212-385-1122.