Distracted Driving

The Number One Contributing Factor to Motor Vehicle Crashes in New York State
Know the Facts

According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver inattention is defined as one of the following:

  • Driver engagement in secondary tasks 
  • Driver drowsiness
  • Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  • Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

In recent years, the most frequent form of distraction while driving has been due to cell phone use and texting. Almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes in this study involved the driver looking away from the forward roadway just prior to the crash:

  • Looking away for two or more seconds will double the risk of a crash or near crash.
  • Driver inattention due to drowsiness will increase the risk of a crash or near crash by at least four times.
  • A driver who is engaged in a secondary task while driving also increases their risk factor.
  • The following actions: talking, listening or dialing a hand-held device; inserting or retrieving a compact disc; operating a PDA; reading, applying makeup or eating will increase the driver risk factor of a crash or near crash by two to three times.
Taking Action
Ongoing Efforts to Prevent Distracted Driving
Mobile Phone and Portable Electronic Device Laws

In 2001, NY became the first state in the nation to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving, with further legislation enacted in 2009 prohibiting texting while driving. This section of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law also broadly bans use of portable electronic devices while driving.

Operation Hang Up

In 2017, Governor Cuomo established a statewide crackdown on distracted driving, called Operation Hang Up. The crackdown entailed a special enforcement effort to step up patrols and checkpoints, resulting in more than 16,000 tickets, including more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving. 

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The month of April is “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.” Throughout the month, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee highlights important safety messages via press events, public service announcements and social media posts.

Stay Informed Distracted Driving Resources

Distracted Driving Program Inquiries

Brian DiPalma
Highway Safety Program Representative
Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 410B
Albany, NY 12228