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By Jeffrey Freedman

News reports of tragic deaths, combined with the statistics on increasing texting-related traffic incidents, tell a sad story – texting while driving has become a major factor in automobile accidents. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office reported a 143 percent increase in all cellphone-related crashes from the years 2005 to 2011. Additionally, a National Highway Traffic Safety study done in 2013 points to texting as the most dangerous cellphone activity, causing the greatest “performance degradation.”

The NHTS looked at four tasks: dialing a contact, entering a destination inquiry, dialing a 10-digit number and tuning the radio. The study found texting caused significantly greater weaving from one lane to the other, and longer response time giving attention to driving tasks such as maintaining a set distance between the vehicle being driven and the car ahead. As an attorney whose firm handles personal injury cases, I was appalled to see that in 2012, 29 out of the 64 crashes attributed directly to texting resulted in injuries, in many cases, changing lives forever.

According to the American Automobile Association, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death and injury for teens, who are also the highest users of cellphones and texting. Parents like Ben Lieberman, who lost a son to a driver using a cellphone, are taking up the challenge of educating the public about this behavior, which is becoming an addiction for many teens. Anyone taking the wheel of a car is taking the lives of those on the road in his or her hands. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can multitask by texting while we’re driving.

Cuomo and New York State legislators have attacked this problem with some of the strictest texting while driving laws in the country. Those with probationary and junior licenses lose their driving privileges for 60 days for a first offense and longer for subsequent offenses. Adults pay fines ranging from $50 to $400, depending on the judge and the number of offenses. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles has increased the number of points on drivers’ records from three to five.

The public needs to be aware of the dangers involved in texting while driving and in particular, parents need to emphasize to their teenagers how significantly texting impairs driving skills. Answering and sending texts while driving is a bad habit – there is nothing urgent about it. Too many youngsters are losing their lives or suffering serious injuries from this unnecessary activity.

Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys handles accident, Social Security Disability cases, bankruptcy, Veterans Disability claims and a wide variety of consumer-related matters.