It's been a year since the state cracked down on texting while driving, and despite tens of thousands of tickets issued, it continues to be a problem.
The stricter law to prevent distracted driving has netted more than 20,000 tickets statewide, four times as many as the previous year, when police from all jurisdictions issued 4,569 tickets for the texting violations.
The law makes using a hand-held electronic device for texting while driving a primary traffic offense, which means that police now have the power to stop motorists exclusively for that. They don't have to pull you over for another traffic violation or overdue vehicle inspection, for example, to issue a ticket for texting.
But the change hasn't deterred everyone; we continue to hear about people who disobey the law. The tougher punishment -- three points on your driver's license, where it used to be two -- doesn't seem to have made as much of a difference as anticipated.
The fact that police don't need another reason to stop a texting driver means you are more likely than ever to be stopped if you are caught texting.
The new law has demonstrated its usefulness in helping police crack down on distracted driving. And that is essential because recent research shows that motorists who use hand-held electronic devices while driving are four times more likely to be involved in an accident. It can be equivalent to the behavior of drunk drivers at the threshold of the legal limit of .08 BAC.
Last year alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed more than 3,000 deaths to distracted driving, calling it a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways. Young people are especially likely to text while driving because it is such a pervasive part of their lifestyle, so parents should emphasize the dangers and also the impact that points on a license can have.
The state's well-publicized "Click it or ticket" theme and increased enforcement have been successful in getting motorists to buckle their seat belts while driving. State Police are now pushing the saying: "One text or call could wreck it all."
We hope that sticks in minds just as well and that the text crackdown will eventually reduce the incidence of this life-threatening action.
-- The Press-Republican of Plattsburgh