Several fatal incidents involving texting while driving have been highlighted in recent news stories, including a train crash last year in California in which 25 people were killed and 135 were injured. The train operator, who was texting at the time of the accident, was one of those killed.

In late July, the legislature in New York passed a measure to ban texting while driving. If Governor David Patterson signs the bill, it will take effect on November 1, 2009. Fourteen states including Alaska, California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal.

  • Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk (Source: Report by Car and Driver magazine).
  • When truck drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting (Source: Study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).
  • Drivers using a cellphone to talk, face a four times greater risk of crashing, about equal to someone with a 0.08 blood alcohol level, generally the legal limit for intoxication (Source: Study from the University of Utah).

New York State law prohibits talking on a handheld cell phone while driving.

The consequences for violating the hands-free driving law are a $100 fine and a traffic

infraction, which will appear on your driving record.

If you must communicate with another person while driving:

  • Use a hand-free wireless device, which is permitted by New York State law.
  • Pull over, park and then text another person.

In September, the Obama administration will convene a summit of experts to address the problem of texting while driving.

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Charles J. Hynes