September 1, 2009

N.Y. State Bans Driving Under the Influence of Technology

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While caution is still strongly suggested for all campus pedestrians, those traversing through the streets of Cornell’s campus can soon walk with less anxiety about oncoming traffic. Starting Nov. 1, texting while driving in the state of New York will be penalized with a maximum fine of $150.
With numerous recent studies showing the dire effects of texting behind the wheel, state legislators moved to ban this practice. Gov. David Paterson (D) signed the bill last Thursday.
Nathan Shinagawa ’05, an elected legislator representing the 4th District of Tompkins County, advocated for such legislation to be passed on the local level.
“Although I think it is a difficult law to enforce, it sends a cultural message,” Shinagawa said.
While Shinagawa believes that the danger of texting while driving is self-evident, he does not think that people would stop unless legislation was passed.
“A lot of drivers say to themselves, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ But in reality, no, they can’t,” Shinagawa said. “It only takes asking a few people, and either they or someone they know has been involved in an accident caused by texting while driving.”
In a study conducted by The Virginia Tech Transportation Institution, truckers sending text messages while driving are 23 times likelier to cause a crash or near-crash than a truckers who are not texting, according to The New York Times. In light of these findings, the Governors Highway Safety Association is pushing the ban against texting while driving at the national level. This organization of state highway safety officials hope to “change the culture that has permitted distracted driving,” according to Vernon F. Betkey Jr., chairman of the association.
Truckers are not the only motorists at risk, however, especially considering that this practice is most common among teenagers and 20-year-olds.
“People 16 to 25 have the belief that they can text while driving and everything will be okay, and this is definitely not the case,” Shinagawa remarked.
Drivers on Cornell’s campus must pay particularly close attention as students are continually crossing streets across campus on their ways to and from classes. The intersection of East Avenue and Tower Road, where Day Hall is located, is infamous for its hordes of pedestrians.
“It’s a good idea but I’m not really sure how they can regulate it,” said Abby Grauman ’11, who frequently drives on campus. “Drivers could just be looking at the time.”
While Grauman sees the enforcement of this policy as difficult, she does think that the safety of crossing pedestrians is a campus issue that must be addressed.
“I think there could be better ways to regulate crosswalks, maybe with flashing signals when to walk. … The intersection near Ives as well as the intersection in the center of Collegetown are really dangerous for pedestrians and drivers.”
For Gillian Bader ’11, this legislation is common sense. Cornell being a pedestrian-dominated campus, motorists have to driver accordingly.
“It’s really dangerous to be looking down at your phone while you’re driving,” Bader said. “I have a car at school but I rarely drive it. But even when I do, I never text.”