New York is leading the way in the fight against distracted driving by pushing forward on a law that would empower officers to use a textalyzer device.
Despite clear laws that ban handheld use of mobile phones while driving, all too many people in New York regularly see other drivers texting or using phones without hands-free technology. The dangers associated with distracted driving are more frequently now being shown to be as great if not greater than those associated with drunk driving.
How great is the risk?
Many statistics show just how serious the impact of handheld use of phones while driving really can be. The Huffington Post reports that between 2005 and 2008, there was a 28 percent jump in the number of deaths attributed to distracted driving. That 28 percent is the same jump that was seen in the number of deaths attributed to drunk driving but over a longer period of time-from 2005 to 2012. More than 3,300 people are reported to have died in distracted driving accidents in 2012 alone.
The Tech Times reports that a study conducted by the Transportation Research Laboratory in 2014 indicates that distracted driving is actually more dangerous that drunk driving. In the study, drivers who were impaired by alcohol demonstrated a 12 percent reduction in response time. Those impaired by marijuana demonstrated a 21 percent reduction in response time. Those using phones in handheld modedemonstrated a 35 percent reduction in response time.
According to the New York Times, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an increase in the number of fatalities from distracted driving crashes. In addition, these accidents are not always due to drivers who are texting while operating vehicles. Drivers may be found to be taking pictures, using social media and more as well as texting.
New effort may empower officers to crack down on handheld phone use
New York is now investigating arming police officers with a device referred to as a textalyzer. This device can identify activity on cell phones and may give a window into whether or not a driver was using a phone at the time that an accident occurred.
If approved, officers could request the cell phones of any driver when called to an accident scene. Police would not be able to see any actual messages or private information but would be able to detect recent phone activity, indicating potential distraction.
Sadly, texting while driving remains socially acceptable so such action may be necessary in order to help prevent accidents and fatalities. Penalties for distracted driving remain far less severe than for drunk driving. This is another area in which New York may make changes, increasing the consequences for drivers to include loss of driving privileges in some cases.
What should accident victims know?
Anyone who is involved in a crash caused by a driver believed to have been distracted by a mobile device at the time deserves compensation. Victims or their loved ones should always reach out to a lawyer for help on how to best pursue any compensation.