We’ve all seen the signs of distracted driving in one form or another. How many times has the vehicle in front of you swerved from side to side or stayed at a standstill even after the traffic light turned from red to green? While these are relatively harmless occurrences, the reality is that distracted driving – and especially texting and driving – can have deadly consequences.

Distracted driving is particularly dangerous among teenage drivers as their inexperience behind the wheel makes them more likely to be involved in an accident.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers is the under-20 age group. A full 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

More notable facts:

  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
  • 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.
  • Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes).
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving.

Here are some tips to keep young drivers safe. First, educate your kids. Talk to them about the facts and the extreme dangers of texting and driving. Distraction.gov features a campaign “The Faces of Distracted Driving.”  These are faces of kids who have died, or lived through the death of a loved one or best friend because of distracted driving. The message is somber, but effective. It only takes a moment to be distracted and be in a terrible car crash.

Next, set the example. Don’t text and drive. If you need to take a call, use a hands free device and keep it brief. Finally, be conscious of when you are trying to reach your child or anyone you know is driving. Wait until you think they’re off the road to get in touch.

Texting and driving is not just dangerous, it’s illegal in New York. Texting while driving is a primary offense where drivers can now be pulled over for typing text messages, surfing the web, or playing video games on their smart phone while behind the wheel.  Violators are subject to a $150 fine. Additionally, the penalty for using a cell phone without a hands free device is three points on a driver’s license.

Andrew Finkelstein is Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners Personal Injury Attorneys. The firm has a “Commit to Quit Don’t Text and Drive” campaign and encourages you to have your teen driver take the pledge not to text and drive. Call 1-800-Law-AMPM (1-800-529-2676) Lawampm.com
1279 Route 300 Newburgh. Offices also in Wappingers Falls, Kingston, Middletown, Port Jervis and Spring Valley.