Any New Yorker who spends time driving in traffic knows that drivers have a hard time putting down their device. Whether it is sitting in gridlock on Canal Street or whizzing down the BQE, drivers take their eyes off the road to send text messages, check email or find an address listed on a web site.
This kind of risky behavior stubbornly continues to be a significant factor in motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths. According to the AAA, drivers who text are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash, and those driving while talking on the phone are four times more likely to be involved in a collision.
Law enforcement gets creative
Law enforcement officials in Minnesota recently made news by going undercover to fight distracted driving. They did this by having officers pose as construction workers, utility workers and even panhandlers located at stoplights. They would watch passing drivers to see where their eyes focused and issue tickets if eyes wandered to their laps at stoplights. Another method involved an officer riding a school or MTA bus where they could look down into the cars around them — the officers would then radio partners in patrol cars to pull over the driver.
Drivers can avoid this behavior
Drivers can make a conscious decision not to be distracted while driving. Simple solutions include:
- Turn off the device or install software that holds incoming messages when the user is driving.
- Preprogram the map app so the driver can check routes in a split second.
- Adjust climate control, seats, mirrors, and sound systems while still parked.
- Use hands-free technology.
- Refrain from grooming, eating or drinking when driving.
Damages can be substantial
New York was the first to draft laws about cell phone use when driving, but this menace still causes thousands of injuries each year. Victims and their families may have no option other than seeking damages from negligent drivers. This can help cover lost wages for time away from work, pay for repairs to the vehicle as well as related medical expenses.