While drunk and drugged driving remain key concerns on a national level, another form of impaired driving has entered the picture as a major concern for people throughout the United States, and especially in New York: distracted driving.
In 2015, the most recent year for which there is complete information available, 3,477 people were killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers. This figure represents approximately 10 percent of the total 35,092 car accident deaths that year. Another 391,000 people were injured in crashes that distracted drivers caused.
Many of these accidents have been linked to cell phone usage behind the wheel. A 2014 report by the National Safety Council indicated cell phones were estimated to be a factor in 26 percent of all car accidents. Five percent of all accidents involved texting while driving, and another 21 percent involved drivers talking on a cell phone or hands-free phone system.
Considering the sheer number of people out on New York’s roadways as motorists and pedestrians alike, a driver taking his or her eyes off the road even for a second or two could jeopardize the safety of anyone out on the roads.
Increased enforcement in New York
As the increased use of cell phones behind the wheel has led to more distracted driving accidents, law enforcement has doubled down on its enforcement actions over the last several years.
2013 marked the first year in which there was a clear increase in distracted driving ticketing. In New York City, for example, there were 82 percent more texting while driving tickets issued than there were in 2012, and the rest of the state saw an increase of 89 percent. In Bronx County, the rate of texting while driving ticketing almost doubled from 2012 to 2014, with 1,685 such tickets issued in 2012 and 2,966 in 2014. Of the tickets issued in 2014, 78.3 percent were to repeat offenders.
This does not necessarily mean the number of people texting while driving is increasing—merely that police now have better resources and processes in place for detecting incidents of texting while driving and ticketing for it. Since the offense was upgraded to a primary offense in 2011, police can pull over drivers for texting behind the wheel rather than having to wait for another violation.
There are also tougher laws and more awareness campaigns being run throughout the state. A first offense now results in a fine of $50 to $200, with subsequent offenses resulting in fines of up to $450. The penalties are especially tough on teen drivers—a teen with a learner’s permit or driver’s license will have that permit or license suspended 120 days if ticketed for texting while driving, and that suspension increases to a year if there is another violation within six months of the permit or license restoration.
To learn more about your options if you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of a distracted driver, speak with a skilled New York auto accident lawyer at the Law Office of Evan W. Kohn.