Will NY’s harsher texting penalty mean fewer car accidents?

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents these days. When people are Instagramming photos, texting friends or updating Facebook on their smartphones, they are not paying much attention to the road. Serious and sometimes fatal car accidents are often the result.

As of June 1, the penalty for using a phone for most non-emergency functions in New York increased. Instead of three points on one’s license for a first offense, drivers who text behind the wheel will get five. (Accumulating 11 points in an 18-month span may result in a driver’s license suspension.)

That is quite a harsh penalty — driving 20 mph over the speed limit will earn a driver fewer points on his or her license than will texting– but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it’s paramount that legislators send “a strong message” to drivers: “Don’t do it, and don’t think about doing it.”

Cuomo was also largely responsible for making texting-while-driving a three-point offense back in 2011. That year, there were 25,165 car crashes that were attributed to distracted driving, compared to 4,628 alcohol-related crashes, according to state records.

As personal injury attorneys, we know all too well, the harm and devastation that a car accidents cause. We believe it is important that New York City as a community, New York as a state and even the U.S. as a country ought to focus on what can be done to reduce the number of car accidents. A reduction in such incidents will lead to a reduction in pointless injuries and deaths.

Time will tell whether this new, harsher punishment is effective, but it seems clear that it at least has the potential to make New York drivers safer. Every effort to make driving safer is applauded and well worth it.

Source: The New York Post, “Andy’s message to driver: Txt and ur out,” Beth Defalco, June 1, 2013

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