According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver inattention is defined as one of the following:
Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway
This study also listed "Driver Inattention" as the primary contributing factor to crashes and near crashes. Almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes in this study involved the driver looking away from the forward roadway just prior to the crash.
Looking away for two or more seconds will double the risk of a crash or near crash.
Driver inattention due to drowsiness will increase the risk of a crash or near crash by at least four times.
A driver who is engaged in a secondary task while driving also increases their risk factor.
The following actions: talking, listening or dialing a hand-held device; inserting or retrieving a compact disc; operating a PDA; reading, applying makeup or eating will increase the driver risk factor of a crash or near crash by two to three times.
Driver inattention/distraction is the number one contributing factor of motor vehicle crashes in New York State. In recent years, the most frequent form of distraction while driving has been due to cell phone use and texting.
What are we doing?
Cell phone use, texting and other driver distractions continue to be a serious traffic safety concern in New York State and across the country. In order to address this public health and safety issue effectively, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) works with high schools, community organizations, local and state government and law enforcement agencies to educate about and enforce laws against distracted driving. Some highlights of these efforts are outlined below.
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The month of April has been proclaimed as "Distracted Driving Awareness Month." During the month of April, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) highlights important safety messages via press events, public service announcements (PSAs) and social media posts.
Mobile Phone and Portable Electronic Device Laws
In 2001, New York became the first state in the nation to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. In recognition of the additional dangers posed by the increasing use of cell phones to send and receive text messages, further legislation was enacted in 2009 prohibiting texting while driving. This section of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law also broadly bans uses of portable electronic devices while driving, such as taking photos, accessing the internet, and playing games.
In 2011, Governor Cuomo signed a law that made texting while driving a primary offense and increased the number of licensee points from 2 to 3. Licensee points were then further raised from 3 to 5 for offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013.
Distracted Driving Enforcement
In 2017, Governor Cuomo established a statewide crackdown on distracted driving as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The crackdown, called Operation Hang Up, entailed a special enforcement effort to step up patrols and checkpoints targeting drivers on electronic devices.
Preliminary data showed a 918 percent increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York State from 2011 to 2016. While tickets for calls on cell phones continue to decline, the use of smartphones for texting has caused the number of tickets to rise every year since 2011.
During the April 2017 Operation Hang Up campaign, State Police issued more than 16,000 tickets, including more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving. The tickets written were a combination of talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting, or using an electronic device while driving.
Every year, law enforcement agencies from across the state are also encouraged to participate in the National Distracted Driving enforcement mobilization termed U Drive. U Text. U Pay.
Distracted Driving Awareness Campaigns and Event Participation
GTSC promotes distracted driving awareness via the development of PSAs, billboards, social media posts and variable message signs (VMS). Informational brochures and materials are also distributed to the public at major events throughout the year, including but not limited to the International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, the New York State Fair and the Annual GTSC Highway Safety Symposium.
What can you do?
There are many steps that you can take to be a safe and responsible driver on New York State roadways.
Tips for Drivers:
Stay focused on the road and your surroundings. Never drive distracted.
Do not use your cell phone or any electronic device while driving. If there is an emergency, safely pull off of the road or into a "Texting Zone" before using your devices.
Avoid arguments and stressful or emotional conversations with passengers.
Avoid eating or grooming while driving.
Be sure children are properly and safely restrained.
Properly secure pets in a pet carrier or portable kennel.
Drive sober. Never drive impaired by alcohol or drugs and discourage others from doing so.
Tips for Passengers:
Be quiet and alert.
Don't create distractions for the driver.
Offer to help navigate.
If you are a passenger in a car with a distracted driver, say something! Do not tolerate distracted driving.
Questions and comments regarding the statewide Distracted Driving Program should be directed to:
Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 410B
Albany, NY 12228