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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"STOP t-e-x-t-i-n-g while driving"
ALBANY, Feb. 27 -- Of all the many statistics being used to highlight the dangers of distracted driving – in other words, driving while talking or texting on a cellphone, or even now, unbelievably, browsing the Web on a smartphone – maybe this one drives the point home most of all: police officers in New York State have issued 118,757 tickets since July 2011 for using an electronic handheld device while driving.
according to the Cuomo administration, which recently released the latest
data on the same day that the Senate Transportation Committee held a public
hearing on the issue in Albany. It’s more than enough to confirm
the concern raised by many transportation safety experts that distracted
driving has become an epidemic across the nation.
And the numbers remain striking despite New York State having one of the strongest anti-distracted-driving laws in America. Last year the Legislature overwhelmingly approved and Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation strengthening New York’s laws by elevating text messaging while driving from a secondary to a primary violation, making it allowable for police officers to stop drivers texting while driving without the requirement of another, “predicate” offense being committed. The penalties for using a cellphone while driving were also increased from two to three points on a driver's license.
At our recent Senate hearing, we heard testimony from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Vice Chairman Christopher Hart who stressed that research shows the “increasing use” of handheld devices by motorists. Ticketing has skyrocketed, many argue, but there’s no corresponding drop in distracted drivers. The purpose of the recent Senate hearing was to explore if enforcement of New York’s current anti-distracted-driving laws can be enhanced, how to improve educational efforts, and if current driver education curriculums can do a better job of reaching young drivers.
Why the alarm? Federal data shows 16,000 deaths nationwide due to texting
while driving. Other studies have shown that drivers are 23 percent more
likely to be involved in an accident while text messaging. According to
the Centers for Disease Control, more than 15 people are killed and over
1,200 people injured every day in distracted driving crashes. How about
this one: a driver who’s texting takes his or her eyes off the road
for at least five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s
enough time to drive the length of a football field without paying attention
to the road ahead – and plenty of time to cross into the path of
an oncoming vehicle.
Right now we can only hope that the tougher laws, stricter enforcement and better education will help restore some common sense and safety to New York’s roadways – and save lives.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869