NEW YORK – in the mid-1990s, a nationwide campaign took aim on drunk drivers. The slogan, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” was plastered on billboards from Boston to Los Angeles. Law enforcement stepped-up sobriety checkpoints; and arrests for driving under the influence sharply increased.
Today, drinking and driving is still a common problem on the roads but it’s taken a back-seat to an issue many experts consider to be just as dangerous but much more prevalent: texting.
“When a driver looks down to view a text message, they’re putting lives on the line. Even if a driver is distracted for just three seconds, a car can travel over 300 feet without eyes on the highway in New York traffic.” accident attorney Ross Cellino said.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office reports there was a 143 percent increase in cell phone-related crashes between 2005 and 2011. In the same time, the state reported an 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes.
Statistics show New York State law enforcement officers recorded fewer than 5,000 alcohol-related crashes in 2011. The same year, officers tallied over 25,000 crashes involving at least one distracted driver, now the most common factor leading to a crash.
“It’s unfortunate these crashes continue to happen because just about every driver knows texting and driving puts their life at risk but they do it anyway,” Cellino said. “The problem is so prevalent, personal injury lawyers are requesting cell phone records every day as part of discovery to prove a defendant was texting behind the wheel.”
Local and state officials are very cognizant of the texting trend and New York State is leading the charge in the battle against texting and driving.
Statewide, the number of texting while driving citations increased 35 percent in one year. In 2014, officers handed out more than 75,000 tickets, up from 56,000 in 2013.
As part of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” campaign, the city has been a hotbed for texting citations, which increased by almost 50 percent to 48,000 tickets issued in 2014.
“A driver can get fined up to $200 and get five points against their license, if caught texting and driving,” Cellino said. “They’re taking a tough stance in the city because there’s so much foot traffic and pedestrians are getting hit because drivers aren’t paying attention.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2013 saw more than 3,000 people get killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and another 425,000 were hurt.
New York law enforcement officers warn the only true way to avoid a texting citation is to turn your phone off and put it out of sight so you’re not tempted to shift your focus off the road.