Press Release 04-09-2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
GTSC, DMV HIGHLIGHT DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
GTSC Launches New Distracted Driving PSA Campaign
Enforcement Initiative to Run from April 11 to 15
Event Marking National Distracted Driving Awareness Month Held in Saratoga Springs
The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today held a press conference to announce a public safety campaign and enforcement effort to deter distracted driving. The press conference was held at the Trucking Association of New York’s (TANY) Truck Safety and Education Symposium and helped raise awareness for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“Distracted driving puts you and all those sharing the road at risk,” said Acting GTSC Chair and Acting DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “I am proud of the progress we’re making and that New York State has been a leader in addressing this serious traffic safety issue. In 2001, we were the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Using a cell phone to call, text or for any other purpose while driving is only one of the ways people distract themselves from driving. Please do not eat, pick up something you dropped, groom yourself or do anything else behind the wheel, other than to focus on driving. A few seconds of inattention can lead to serious and fatal injuries. It’s just not worth it.”
State and local police will also launch an enforcement campaign focused on distracted driving, which will take place from April 11 to April 15.
This week is also National Work Zone Awareness Week, and distracted driving can be a danger to our highway workers and emergency personnel.
New York’s efforts to raise awareness about distracted driving are working, according to statistics from the University at Albany’s Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR). The number of fatal passenger vehicle crashes where driver inattention or distraction was a reported factor dropped from 144 crashes in 2017 to 108 crashes in 2018.
The distracted driving crash statistics for large trucks show improvements as well. The number of large truck fatal crashes where driver inattention or distraction was a reported factor fell from 15 crashes in 2017 to 11 crashes in 2018.
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “Distracted driving is just as dangerous as speeding or driving impaired, and continues to be a leading factor in many motor vehicle crashes. Each year, there are needless tragedies because someone couldn’t put down their handheld device. Through continued education and enforcement, State Police will continue to work toward making New York’s roads safer and we will hold distracted drivers accountable.”
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “When you drive distracted, you are risking your life, the lives of drivers around you and roadside crews who are just doing their jobs to keep the road safe. There are 27 Service Areas and 3 Welcome Centers, as well as a dozen text stops on the NYS Thruway where people can pull over and use their devices in a safe, comfortable area where they don't have to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.”
New York State Department of Transportation Executive Deputy Commissioner Ronald L. Epstein said, “Distracted driving poses a danger to everyone on our roadways, including the many dedicated men and women who work every day to keep our roads and bridges safe and in good working order. I urge all motorists to drive safely and to keep their eyes on the road instead of their handheld electronic devices. Drivers should also take advantage of the many text stops lining our state highway system. A human life is more important than a text message.”
Distracted driving awareness advocate Karen Torres said, “A text, a snap, a quick glance in the other direction, is all it takes to change a life forever. Safety is so incredibly important, and we need to be proactive rather than reactive. Advocacy is borne out of loss, but shouldn't be the reason to take preventative action while behind the wheel. In honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, make it your personal vow to put your phone down."
Torres’ father Patrick Mapleson, a NYS Department of Transportation highway maintenance worker, was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2006 while working along Sunrise Highway in Eastport, NY.
Chairman of the Trucking Association of New York Eric Hoxsie said, “Safety of all drivers on our roadways is a top priority for the trucking industry. Alarmingly, with the increased use of mobile devices, distracted driving is on the rise across the board. This is of significant concern to the trucking industry, where highways are our office. We encourage all drivers to be aware of the things that can cause distractions, keep your eyes on the road and help everyone travel safe.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,166 people were killed in the United States in distraction-affected crashes in 2017. To help prevent more tragedies, NHTSA recommends the following for motorists:
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against unsafe drivers.
To help deter motorists from talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting, or using an electronic device while driving, the state has set strict penalties. The penalties can range from $50 to $450 in fines, up to 5 driver violation points, and suspension or revocation of license.