PHONE USE & DISTRACTED DRIVERS REVISITED

The number of texting tickets in New York continue to increase in 2015.  According to an article in The Journal News on April 11, 2016 by Joseph Spector, state and local police issued 84,720 tickets for texting while driving in 2015, an 11% increase from 2014.  Distracted driving tickets and talking on a cellphone while driving were down 10% in 2015.  The number of cellphone tickets fell 20% to 132,000 in 2015.

Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo and New York legislators have increased fines for texting and penalties and made cell and texting use a primary offense.  The state last year increased the penalty for texting and cellphone use from 3 points on your license to 5 points and increased the fines to $200 on the first offense.  Drivers under 21 with junior licenses can get their license suspended for a first offense.  These changes and increased law enforcement has led to a surge in tickets.  The article points out that in 2013, the State issued 56,000 texting tickets, a 52% increase.  In Westchester, the tickets issued for texting increased by 14%.  In Putnam County, the tickets issued increased from 319 to 368.

We previously blogged on two prior occasions on April 21, 2015 and December 24, 2014 about texting and cellphone use.  In an article published in The Journal News on September 4, 2016 by Denise Lavoie discusses phone use in the U.S.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates nearly 3500 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, up from 3200 in 2014.  The number of deaths from cellphone distraction rose from 406 in 2014 to 476 in 2015.  The article points out that accidents, as a result of cellphone use, are vastly under reported.

According to the article entitled “Drivers Still Using Phones”, 46 states have laws against texting while driving that also band sending or reading e-mails, using apps or engaging in other internet activities.  Fourteen states bar drivers from using hand held cellphones for any activity including talking.  Safety experts, police and drivers state that the problem is getting worse.  In New York, texting tickets soared from about 9000 in 2011 to nearly 85,000 in 2015.  In Massachusetts, they rocketed from 1100 to a little over 6100.  In California, the number of people found guilty of texting while driving climbed from under 3000 in 2009 to over 31,000 in 2015.  According to a Virginia State Trooper, he saw one driver who had two phones going at the same time, one in his left hand, one in his right hand with his wrist on the steering wheel.  For the regular officers in a car, it is very difficult to tell if someone is texting.  In Florida, texting is a secondary offense meaning even if police spot drivers texting, they can’t be stopped unless the officer sees another violation such as speeding.  Police in Florida gave out only 1359 tickets for texting in 2015.

In New York, even though the new laws have enabled police to issue more tickets for cellphone use and texting, law makers propose to equip police with a device called a textalyzer.  An officer investigating an accident could use the device to check the driver’s phone for any activity before the crash.  This law is still pending in New York.  Fines for the first offenses range from $20 to $500.  In New York, drivers caught texting also get 5 points on their driving record which leads to higher insurance rates.

If you or a loved one have been in an automobile accident as a result of distracted driving while using their cellphone, contact the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or visit us on the web at White Plains-Personal Injury-Law.com or at Robustelli Personal Injury Law NY.com.