The latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offer some good news: U.S. traffic deaths have fallen to their lowest level since 1949, declining by nearly 2 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Even so, there’s a lot more work to be done to further lower the number of traffic deaths – particularly those related to distracted driving.
CarInsuranceQuotes.com spoke with David Resnick, a personal injury attorney in New York City, about the types of traffic cases he handles and his recommendations for reducing traffic deaths.
What types of traffic injury- and death-related claims do you see in your practice?
In my experience, very often they’re accidents involving drivers and pedestrians. For the most part, these accidents are due to distracted drivers: people who are texting or talking on handheld cell phones, and not keeping both hands on the wheel. Texting is a big problem. People text while they drive all the time, and when they get dirty looks from people in cars in the next lane, they may stop for a second, but they tend to get right back to it.
Drunk driving is a big problem, too. It’s incredibly dangerous and stupid and, more often than not, (drunk driving crashes) are very serious accidents.
How does distracted driving factor into penalties when an accident is involved?
Evidence of distracted driving can be very important in demonstrating a driver’s negligence. Anytime there’s an allegation of distracted driving, there will be a request for the phone record for the time the accident occurred. If a driver was texting or on the phone at the time of the collision, that phone record can be the main evidence of negligence in the case.
What laws are in place in New York to prevent texting while driving, and other distracted driving offenses?
Currently, drivers who want to talk on their cellphones must use a Bluetooth headset or other hands-free device, rather than a handheld phone. Text messaging is completely banned. And cab drivers in New York City are banned from using cellphones at all.
There’s a $150 fine for these offenses, and drivers who are caught will lose two points on their licenses.
Do you think strict anti-texting laws have done anything to curb this behavior?
I think they have, and I think that as people realize they’re going to get pulled over more and more, if their consciences won’t stop them, fear of losing money can steer their behavior.
What else do you think NHTSA should do to help reduce traffic deaths?
They should make sure that present laws are well-enforced. I believe they also should implement harsher penalties for texting and driving. Texting is becoming more and more of a problem, and it should be completely unacceptable for drivers anywhere.