Governor David A. Paterson today joined with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner (DMV) David J. Swarts, and State and local officials in launching a landmark pilot program in Syracuse to decrease distracted driving.
“New York is a leader in highway safety and we are proud to take part in this national demonstration project,” Governor Paterson said. “As part of New York’s ongoing efforts against distracted driving, I submitted a Program Bill to the Legislature which would make New York State’s law against texting while driving more effective by raising a violation of the law from a secondary to a primary offense. Through these and other efforts, we will continue to work to make New York’s roads safer for all travelers.”
Law enforcement agencies in the City of Syracuse received a grant of $300,000 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to conduct this enforcement and public awareness campaign. The campaign, called “Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other,” is one of two federally funded pilot programs that will test whether increased law enforcement efforts combined with effective public advertising can get drivers to put down their cell phones and focus on the road. Results from the year-long Syracuse study and its sister campaign in Hartford, Connecticut, will be used to model future anti-distraction campaigns in other cities and states across the nation.
DMV Commissioner David Swarts said: “The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the Department of Motor Vehicles have been instrumental in developing many traffic safety initiatives that have become national models. We know that this effort will also be replicated in other states as an effective method for combating distracted driving.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2008 were due to distracted driving. In New York State, driver distraction is a contributing factor in one out of every five crashes. According to a Nationwide Insurance study, an estimated 20 percent of all drivers, and 66 percent of drivers aged 18 to 24, are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel.
Public service advertisements began last week to alert area drivers of the upcoming enforcement crackdown, and high visibility enforcement and ticketing for violations will begin in Syracuse from April 8-17. Subsequent enforcement waves will occur July 22-31; October 7-16, and April 7-16.
“Any kind of distraction while driving is dangerous, which is why it is so important to crack down on this offense for the safety and well being of everyone traveling on New York’s roads,” the Governor added.