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August 20, 2010

Health Department Warns About Dangers of Texting While Driving

The Oswego County Health Department recognizes the importance of safe driving practices for teens and adults.

"Learning to drive is one of life's great milestones and cell phone and other electronic technologies have enhanced our lives with the speed and ease of retrieving information and keeping us connected," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Oswego County Public Health Director. "However, these two activities just do not mix."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2008, more than 3,400 teens age 15 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Teen drivers are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.

"Texting while driving is especially dangerous," said Dr. Norfleet. "Texting is a visual, manual and cognitive distraction that forces you to take your eyes off the road, hand off the wheel, and mind off driving. It takes the driver's attention away from driving more often and for longer periods of time than any other distraction."

Driver distraction is a contributing factor in one out of five crashes in New York State. Younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 may be at greater risk because they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

New York State lawmakers passed a law that took effect Nov. 1, 2009. It prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices, such as cell phones and smart phones, to send text messages or e-mails while driving. The penalty for a violation of this law may be a fine of up to $150. This law replaces those passed by other jurisdictions in New York State.

The Oswego County Sheriff's Department also cautions drivers against texting while driving. Sheriff Reuel Todd said, "Any use of a cell phone that is not totally hands-free while driving is against the law in New York State."

To learn more about driving distractions, go to www.distraction.gov.

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