You may or may not be aware that New York already has a statewide ban on the use of handheld cell phones by drivers, imposing strict fines, points on their license and the possibility of a suspension of driving privileges for violators of the law.

This is not just to raise revenue through the collection of news fees and fines, but also as a public safety measure. The NTSB recently released a report detailing the rise in the number of crashes caused as a direct result of distracted driving. In fact, fatal crashes caused by distracted driving now outpace the number of fatal crashes caused by driving under the influence.

New York takes driver safety very seriously. With a population of more than 19 million people, many of them concentrated in a few specific urban areas, the state has some of the most heavily congested roadways in the world. New York City regularly tops the list of longest commuter routes and most traffic jams.

All this traffic creates a situation which requires the utmost attention if the goal is an increase in public safety. State officials recognized the dangers of cell phone use by drivers several years ago and struggled to find a solution which did little to inconvenience and more to make the roads safer.

In New York, drivers stopped in traffic jams often use their idle time to make business calls or chat with friends. Limiting their use of cells phone while they are behind the wheel was initially seen as an affront to personal liberty. But since the ban went into effect the number of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving seems to have declined. At the very least, drivers have become more aware of the dangers of using a handheld device while they are behind the wheel; parents have begun educating their teen drivers about the dangers of not being fully aware of what’s going on around them while they are cruising to their friends house.

It seems everyone is talking about the dangers of distracted driving. And that’s a great conversation to have.

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