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Wayne Post
  • Our view: Texting crackdown a start, but it’s not enough

  • You see it every day on the road: motorists with their phones propped against the steering wheel, eyes looking down instead of ahead, while their cars weave back and forth. Most of the time, these drivers — some texting, some checking their email or surfing the web — are able to correct the...
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  • You see it every day on the road: motorists with their phones propped against the steering wheel, eyes looking down instead of ahead, while their cars weave back and forth.
    Most of the time, these drivers — some texting, some checking their email or surfing the web — are able to correct their cars and avoid deadly crashes. Sometimes the results are tragic — for them, their passengers or for drivers in the opposite lanes of traffic.
    And it’s getting worse. A lot worse.
    Consider these statistics from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office:
    - From 2005 to 2011, cell phone-related crashes in New York increased approximately 143 percent, while alcohol-related crashes went down 18 percent.
    - There were 25,165 fatal and personal injury crashes involving distracted driving in New York in 2011, while there were 4,628 caused by alcohol-related driving.
    - While DWI/DWAI arrests are on the decline in New York — about 4 percent less between 2011 and 2012 — the number of tickets issued for texting-while-driving are up 234 percent.
    The potential for carnage is obvious: While a relatively small percentage of drivers get behind the wheel in an intoxicated state, just about everyone has a cell phone these days.
    And it’s an even bigger problem for younger drivers. Research from the Pediatric Academic Societies reports that 43 percent of teenage drivers admit to regularly texting while they drive. Taken with their relative inexperience as motorists, it’s a deadly combination, and sadly, one seen in Ontario County in 2007, when five young ladies from Fairport died in a collision with a tractor trailer on Routes 5 and 20 in East Bloomfield that authorities blame in part on texting.
    It’s for those reasons — and many similar stories throughout the country — that Cuomo and the state Legislature are doing what they can to discourage the dangerous practice.
    Under legislation introduced by Cuomo and passed by the Legislature, drivers with permits and probationary or junior licenses now face a 60-day suspension when caught texting or using a hand-held cell phone on the road, plus the fines. And that’s for a first offense. A second conviction within six months means revocation of a driver’s probationary license for six months and a junior license for another 60 days.
    The state Department of Motor Vehicles, at Cuomo’s direction, also raised the number of license points for any driver’s conviction for improper cell phone use from three to five, the same as for reckless driving or illegally passing a stopped school bus. Getting 11 points within 18 months results in a suspended license.
    But laws can only do so much at attacking the epidemic on America’s highways, and the nation’s biggest cell phone companies in May launched their first joint advertising campaign against texting while driving, called "It Can Wait." You may have seen them.
    Page 2 of 2 - But it’s going to take a culture change — that texting while behind the wheel is as politically incorrect as driving drunk. The numbers bear out that it is — and more.
    But as a parent, there are things you can do as well. Remind your young drivers that texting has no place while you’re behind the wheel. And you might want to remind them as well of the new ramifications for getting caught. Losing your wheels is a big thing.
    After all, is sending that message or checking that email worth the loss of life, either your own or another’s?
    Like the slogan says, it can wait. It really can.
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