Distracted Driving in NY Takes Deadly Bite out of The Big Apple

By now, most of us realize that texting and driving do not mix. Yet, drivers who are distracted by various tech-toys remain a constant source of danger for commuters and pedestrians alike.

In September, four people were killed and 24 injured when a New York bus driver crashed into a railroad overpass. The driver later admitted that he was distracted by his personal GPS device. This is just one tragic example of the distracted driving accidents that plague our states’ roads.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 crashes involving a distracted driver, and over half a million were injured. While lawmakers and police are working to lower these numbers, distracted driving remains a serious concern for anyone on the road.

The Scope of Distracted Driving

Distractions while driving can come from many sources, not all of them related to technology. The following behaviors are just a few of the activities that fall within the scope of distracted driving:

  • Using a cell phone (to talk or text)
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading (including maps)
  • Using a navigation system (GPS)
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting an audio system.

Cell Phones and Technology Use are Especially Dangerous

There is special concern over tech-related distracted driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to result in injury. One reason texting and related activity is so dangerous is that it involves all three main types of distraction:

  • Visual (looking away from the road)
  • Manual (removing your hands from the wheel)
  • Cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing).

A study from the University of Utah even found that any kind of cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood-alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

The Big Apple’s Big Problem

In New York City, a recent study by NYC transportation planners looked at more 7,000 car accidents in the city between 2002 and 2006, and the study’s authors noted that since that time, “electronic distracted driving has become more pressing as cell phones, computers and other portable devices further distract the driver.” The results were startling: the most common reason listed for a crash was driver inattention, which was a factor in 36 percent of accidents in which a pedestrian was killed or seriously injured. Furthermore, distracted driving accidents were found to be more than twice as deadly as those resulting from other causes.

Does NYC Have a Solution?

Lawmakers have been attuned to the unique problems posed by tech-related distracted driving for some time. The New York Distracted Driving, Talking and Texting law was first passed in December of 2001, and received updates in 2009.

The law levies fines against any driver who uses a portable electronic device while driving. The 2009 update banned hand-held mobile telephone use as well (although drivers are still legally allowed to use a hands-free phone). Police enforce the law rigorously: in 2009, the NYPD issued an average of 617 summonses a day to drivers using hand-held cell phones, and specially planned crackdowns net even more citations. On July 22, 2009, police handed out more than 6,000 tickets during one such initiative.

It appears these efforts are helping: while inattentive driving remains a significant problem, distracted driving fatalities have declined markedly in the last two years.

Victims of Distracted Driving

If you or someone you know has been injured by a distracted driver, it is important to remember that even if distracting behavior behind the wheel is not illegal, those who drive distracted in any capacityare legally responsible for harm caused to victims.

Distracted drivers can be held liable for medical expenses, property damage, wages lost due to injury, and pain and suffering. For fatal crashes, compensation can include all the extensive economic costs associated with the death and damages for loss of income.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a distracted driver, it is critical to contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can not only assure that you receive the full amount of monetary compensation you deserve, but can help you make the roads safer for everyone by sending a strong message against distracted driving.