Press Release - 04-11-2018

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Tiffany Portzer
[email protected]
Annual enforcement and education outreach effort to focus on eliminating distracted driving behaviors
B-Roll and Sound Bites from Event Available
Smartphones and other electronic devices can be entertaining, but they can also result in unattended consequences if you’re using one behind the wheel. The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) wants you to avoid those dangers. At the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, DMV and GTSC today announced a statewide campaign to crack down on distracted driving. The event also marks National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. 
“While new technologies present us with opportunities to gain access to information and entertainment, we encourage motorists to never be tempted to use them while driving,” said Terri Egan, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. “Distracted driving is a public safety issue that we cannot afford to ignore on New York’s roadways. You may think you have time to read a text, but it’s a dangerous gamble. By being smart and understanding the things that can cause distractions while driving, we can continue to improve highway safety.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nationwide in 2016, 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. In addition, a study conducted by the University at Albany’s Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) in 2015, showed that 160 persons were killed and more than 33,000 persons were injured in crashes in New York that had "driver inattention/distraction" reported as a contributing factor. The same report noted that 21 to 22 percent of police-reported fatal and personal injury crashes had “driver inattention/distraction” reported as a contributing factor each year.
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “Distracted driving is dangerous driving, and comes with serious consequences. Each year, driver inattention is one of the leading contributing factors of motor vehicle crashes in New York State. Drivers must be aware of their surroundings and take steps to eliminate the distractions that take their attention away from the road. We urge all motorists to put down their smartphones and do their part to keep our highways safe.”
As part of this year’s initiative, Karen Torres, a speaker for The National Safety Council and GTSC, addressed attendees and area students to stress the importance of eliminating distracted driving incidents from New York’s roadways. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible, and in a blink of an eye the consequences can be catastrophic,” she said. “Advancements in technology, multi-tasking, recklessness, and negligent behavior behind the wheel has claimed too many lives. We need to create a culture where it is no longer socially acceptable to use our cell phones while driving. We all have the right to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of that choice.”
In addition, the Saratoga Automobile Museum provided two virtual distracted driving simulators which replicate the experience of distracted driving and demonstrate the consequences of driver choices on today’s roadways. 
In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo established a statewide crackdown on distracted driving as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The crackdown, called Operation Hang Up, entailed a special enforcement effort to step up patrols and checkpoints targeting drivers on electronic devices. Preliminary data showed a 918 percent increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York State from 2011 to 2016. While tickets for calls on cell phones continue to decline, the use of smartphones for texting has caused the number of tickets to rise every year since 2011.
During the April 2017 Operation Hang Up campaign, State Police issued more than 16,000 tickets, including more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving. The tickets written were a combination of talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting, or using an electronic device while driving.
Current New York State law includes the following penalties for distracted drivers:
  • For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum is $200
  • A second offense in 18 months increases the maximum fine to $250
  • A third offense in 18 months results in a maximum fine of $450
  • Probationary and junior drivers face a 120-day suspension of their license for a first offense, and one year revocation of their permit or license if a second offense is committed within six months.
To learn more about the dangers of distracted driving and strategies to avoid it, visit the GTSC's Distracted Driving page  and NHTSA’s Research on Distracted Driving.
For more information about DMV, visit, or follow the DMV conversation online on Facebook and Twitter. To learn about additional traffic safety reminders, visit the GTSC website.