Tag Archives: texting-while-driving

Op-ed: A human life is worth far more than $50


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY COUNCILWOMAN KAREN KOSLOWITZ

A constituent contacted my office informing me that she had been injured while riding in an Access-a-Ride vehicle.

The circumstances were that the driver of the van had been texting while driving and rear-ended a vehicle. She wanted to know, among other things, what was the penalty for such behavior. I researched the matter, wanting to know myself what were the penalties.

You cannot imagine my disbelief when I discovered that under existing law, if your texting while driving contributes to someone’s death the punishment is a fine ranging from $50 up to $200.

Imagine someone losing their life due to another’s willful negligence and $50 settles the matter. I decided to attempt to do something to criminalize this type of behavior.

I will submit to the New York City Council for their consideration on April 28 a resolution calling upon the state legislature to criminalize “distracted driving” that results in death or serious injury. Distracted driving is defined in law as “using a hand-held electronic device while driving.” I am urging Albany lawmakers to create laws which make distracted driving that contributes to a death a felony, and that which causes serious physical injury, as defined in the state Penal Law, a misdemeanor.

The City Council does not have the legislative ability to pass a felony sanction, only the state. This is why Albany needs to be petitioned in the form of a Resolution.

There is no question that cellphone use is a major factor in the carnage that we are witnessing on the roadways. A study by the National Safety Council concluded that:
• Reported cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.
• Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
• 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
• Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
• Answering a text takes away your attention for about 5 seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.
• Texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road.
Despite this clear correlation between distracted driving and vehicular accidents, the public does not seem to be serious about the gravity of the situation. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control:
• 31 percent of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
• 69 percent of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cellphone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.

It was too many years before society took drinking and driving seriously. The time has long past whereby distracted driving needs to be recognized statutorily for the menace it is.

A human life must be worth more than 50 dollars.

Councilwoman Koslowitz represents the 29th City Council District, which includes all or parts of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and Richmond Hill.

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Cuomo signs tougher texting-while-driving law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation into law strengthening texting-while-driving penalties for young and new drivers.

“Statistic after statistic shows that texting-while-driving is a chronic problem in our society, particularly among teenagers, and it will only get worse if we do not take action to prevent this deadly behavior,” said Cuomo. “That is what this law will do: it will make drivers of all ages think twice before taking their eyes off the road to answer a message on their phone.”

The new law will apply to probationary license holders, those who passed their test within the last six months and junior license holders, drivers under 18 who have some license restrictions.

For the first conviction, probationary and junior licenses will be suspended for 60 days. If there is another violation within six months of the license being restored, probationary licenses will be revoked for six months and junior licenses for 60 days.

Those are the same penalties probationary and junior licenses holders receive for speeding and reckless driving.

When Cuomo proposed the legislation, he also directed the state DMV to increase penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers starting the weekend of June 1. He asked the New York State Police to increase enforcement of the texting-while-driving ban during the summer.

Under the order, the DMV increased the number of points earned on a person’s driving record from three to five if they are convicted of texting-while-driving and other cell-phone related violations.

 

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