A man driving his car distracted by looking at his cell phone.

Distracted Driving = Lost Lives

Tragically, when drivers don’t focus their full attention on the road, lives can be lost. In the last three years, New York’s had eight car accident fatalities directly linked to drivers distracted by text messaging. The most recent one involved the death of 22-year old Mary E. Kavanaugh, who crashed her car while texting behind the wheel. Her case and others clearly demonstrate that distracted driving (be it from talking, texting, reading email, eating or anything else) is dangerous and can be deadly.

Some national figures have shown that driver distraction is a contributing factor in 20 percent of all crashes. More than half a million people are injured each year in distracted driving-related accidents, and thousands of those are killed.

A piece of paper displaying various charts. with two people discussing the content

Making Progress…

States are taking notice of these statistics, and are rapidly passing legislation meant to curb the tide of distracted driving. New York is now one of the 25 states to address the problem by passing a law prohibiting texting while driving. This law compliments earlier, highly successful limitations imposed on the use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel. The so-called “anti-texting” statute, which took effect on November 1, 2009, forbids drivers from using their cell phones or mobile devices to read, type or send a text message while they’re driving. Violators face a fine of up to $150 per instance.

A tablet laying on a marble counter. A bronze statue of blind justice in the. foreground

Not Tough Enough?

Unfortunately, the anti-texting statute is worded in such a way that it provides a loophole. The law specifically states that the driver cannot text/read/type while the car is in motion. Some critics see this as leaving an opening to perform these actions during the time a driver is stopped at a light or stop sign and not technically be in violation of the law even though he or she is still obviously operating the vehicle at that time.

Others argue that the law is without teeth in that it only allows anti-texting fines to be imposed as a “secondary offense.” This means that police officers don’t have the authority to pull a driver over and issue a ticket unless another law, such as speeding, running a red light or changing lanes without signaling, is also being violated.

In February of this year, Gov. David Paterson proposed legislation that would make texting, reading or typing behind the wheel a “primary offense,” allowing police to stop a motorist solely for violation of the anti-texting statute. Giving police this ability would make the law much more effective and make a statement to drivers that these actions will no longer be tolerated.

If you’ve been injured or you’ve lost a loved one in a distracted driving-related accident, you have rights, and the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney can be vital to protecting them. As soon as is feasible after an accident, you should consult a legal professional in your area.