Cell phones have become an integral part of our day. These multi-functional devices have allowed us to have the power of the internet in our cars and complex tasks are now at a driver's fingertips. Use of this powerful tool, however, has tragic consequences.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver every day in the United States.
Although people are aware of the risks of using their phones while driving, recent studies have shown cell phone users are increasingly reading and replying to text messages, emails and even social media posts from the driver's seat.
Although more than 90% of drivers say that text messaging or sending an e-mail while driving is unacceptable, many do it anyway.
In a 2016 survey of drivers by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 40% admitted to reading a text or e-mail while driving in the past 30 days, and 31% admitted to typing a text or e-mail while driving.
At 55 miles per hour, a car can travel the length of a football field in the five seconds it may take to read a text message. Sending a text message doubles the risk of auto accidents or near-crashes and results in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds.
There are three main types of distraction: visual, which involves taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off of driving. Using a cell phone involves all three types of distractions.
With this increase in smart phone technology, there has been a corresponding increase in distraction that is even more detrimental to driving performance. We now have the ability to select music from an app, input directions, check store hours, use our social media, surf the web, or even read the latest news right from the driver's seat.
The New York State Legislature has recognized the hazard of distracted driving by enacting Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d, which prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle while using a hand-held device.
This law applies to so much more than simply texting and it is important for drivers to be aware of the risks. Violation of this statute is punishable by fines of up to $450 or even a 120-day license suspension. In addition, a distracted driver who causes an accident may be liable for injuries to his or her passengers, occupants of other vehicles, and anyone else who is hurt, including bicyclists and pedestrians.
So what can you do to prevent the risks of distracted driving? Plan your drive ahead of time. Choose to dial from your driveway, choose your music, choose your destination, and choose to be safe before you get on the road. Save multitasking for your office or home. Drivers have enough to do on the road and their undivided attention is critical.
Don't be driven to distraction. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mobile device out of reach and out of sight.