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Survey says distracted drivers know the risks but do it anyway

File photo

A new survey takes a look at the attitudes and behaviors of drivers who are also frequent cell phone users. With new state laws put into effect last week, bringing stiffer penalties for distracted driving, WBFO’s Avery Schneider found out more about how new rules and bad habits combine.

Hypothetical situation: you and three other drivers on the road have cell phones. You all know it’s wrong to use them while you drive, but three of you do it anyway. Well, hypothesis is now fact, according to a new survey by AT&T. Out of just over a thousand people the telecom giant talked to, three quarters say they know the dangers of texting or talking while driving, but do it anyway.

There are a broad range of reasons why these drivers say they do it, but this is the one most commonly heard by one criminal law attorney in Buffalo…

"People think that they’re going to miss out on something extremely important if they don’t have their phone in their hand at all times,” said Mary Beth DePasquale.

DePasquale is a managing partner at the law firm of Tully Rinckey. She says summonses for distracted driving are more frequent than ever. Most of her clients are in their late teens and early twenties, and have only had their license or permit for five to ten years, at most.

Credit File photo / WBFO News
Governor Andrew Cuomo

That new and inexperienced group is exactly who New York State’s new laws are aimed at. Governor Cuomo stated, last week, that tougher penalties will remind younger drivers that distracted driving is unsafe and unacceptable. First and repeat offenses of distracted driving now bring license suspensions and higher fines. DePasquale says the courts are using the fines, in particular, to show drivers the seriousness of their actions…

Mary Beth DePasquale talks about high fines being used to deter drivers from repeat offenses.

"Even if a client is fortunate enough to obtain a lesser plea to a non-moving violation, the courts are not letting up on the fines. They are fining them heavily to act as a deterrent effect, to let the person know that, 'you may have gotten a second opportunity this time, but there won’t be another chance in the future,’" DePasquale said.

DePasquale says she hopes to see a change in the impact of the laws on younger drivers, and that they see how much is at risk. She says time will tell if the laws are effective, and that police will likely be more alert, and take the laws even more seriously.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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