Every time the city or state passes a new law, some claim we’re taking another step toward becoming a police state. There are probably those who feel the same way about the new bill Governor Andrew Cuomo signed on Tuesday making texting while driving a primary offense.
They’re wrong. This is a great bill that will save lives.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a study that found 16 percent of all fatal crashes were due to driver distraction. And in this new technology driven world, texting is one of the biggest causes of distraction.
Half of the nation’s teenagers admitted to texting and driving, according to a study conducted by the American Automobile Association.
Study after study has shown how distracting texting is to driving ability. One study found that novice drivers spent approximately 400 percent less time studying the road while they sent or received text messages. Other studies have shown that texting drivers have much slower reaction times—the difference between braking in time or a full-on collision.
Need more proof? In 2007, police cited cell phone activity as one of the possible reasons for a fatal crash where a teen driver hit a truck in upstate New York. The driver and three other friends in the car—all recent high school graduates—died in the accident. This past September, a Brooklyn teen was charged with misdemeanor count of reckless driving after hitting and critically injuring a Chinese food deliveryman. According to court reports, the teen received a text message and while searching for her phone, hit the man in front of her in a motorized scooter.
Under previous state law, using a cell phone—whether talking or texting—was against the law when behind the wheel. Unfortunately, police officers could not stop drivers they witnessed flaunting the law. Instead, officers had to find another traffic violation to pull over the driver because it was only a “secondary” offense.
The new law now makes texting a primary offense, giving police the freedom to pull over any motorist they see on their phones.
We applaud the decision. Who wants to get rear-ended because someone behind you was too busy looking at a phone? Being rear-ended is just one of the best-case scenarios. The worst, of course, is getting yourself killed or killing someone else.
So please, we beg drivers to put away their phones and for parents to warn their kids that texting while driving is simply unacceptable. Drunk driving has now become a serious taboo, and most reasonable people would never think of getting behind the wheel after a couple of drinks. It’s time to get the same mentality for texting.