NYS Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, April 4, 2011

FINAL WAVE OF DISTRACTED DRIVING PROJECT ANNOUNCED
Enforcement Part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) and officials from various state and law enforcement agencies announced today that the fourth and final wave of the Distracted Driving Enforcement Project (DDEP) will be conducted in the City of Syracuse from April 4-17. The officials also reminded the public that April has been designated as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

"Distracted driving has quickly become one of the most serious dangers on our roadways," said acting GTSC Chairman and Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner J. David Sampson. "Our law enforcement partners have been using education and enforcement to combat this increasingly serious issue. We hope that heightened awareness during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the final wave of the DDEP will help motorists take the dangers and consequences of driving while distracted even more seriously."

In addition to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the other GTSC agencies represented at today's event included the New York State Police and the New York State Thruway Authority. Representatives from the Onondaga Sheriff's Department and the Syracuse Police Department also spoke about the plan to increase enforcement efforts during this fourth and final wave of the demonstration project.

The DDEP was launched in Syracuse in April, 2010. Syracuse and Hartford, Connecticut were the only two cities in the nation chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the recipients of a $300,000 federal grant to target distracted driving during four high visibility enforcement waves. The results of the project will be used to develop a national model for combating this growing epidemic. More than 6,900 tickets were handed out during the first three waves for talking on a handheld cell phone or texting in Syracuse.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said, "I think we have proven that high visibility enforcement will help to curb distracted driving. Our communities deserve and expect safe roadways. We will continue to do our part to fulfill their expectations."

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, "Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Last year, in New York State, driver inattention and distraction was the leading contributing factor of motor vehicle crashes. Drivers must be aware of their surroundings and consciously reduce distractions and behaviors that take their attention from the road. Attentive, responsible, defensive driving is the key to avoiding crashes and keeping our highways safe."

Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin E. Walsh said, "The Onondaga County Sheriff's Office is pleased to be a partner in the Distracted Driver Enforcement Project. I am confident that this campaign will help convince motorists that the consequences of distracted driving can be deadly and that these dangers continue to plague our roadways."

Michael R. Fleischer, Executive Director of the New York State Thruway Authority said, "Our message is simple: If you use a handheld phone while driving on the Thruway, expect to be pulled over by a member of Troop T of the State Police. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel for the safety of yourself and fellow motorists."

NYSDOT Region 3 Regional Director Carl Ford said, "Distracted driving continues to be a problem in New York State and around the country. Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a news report mentioning a highway accident related to a distracted driver. On behalf of New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, I can affirm that the State DOT will continue to work with all agencies involved with educating the public about this growing problem in hopes of reducing or eliminating it. Distracted driving is a menace not only to the drivers directly involved but to those sharing the road as well."

Jacy Good, whose parents were killed by a distracted driver in 2008 said, "I have endured an unimaginable amount of both physical and emotional pain that no one should ever have to experience. My life has been drastically altered because of one person's thoughtless decision to talk on a cell phone while operating a vehicle. The DDEP project proves that education combined with enforcement can change behavior and save lives. My hope is that awareness will continue to be raised through projects like this one and fewer citizens will be forced through the pain my family went through."

In March, 2010 the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution designating April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The resolution encourages everyone to consider the lives of others on the road and put an end to distracted driving. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people were killed nationwide and more than 440,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. In New York State, at least one in five crashes has distracted driving listed as a contributing factor and in 2010 more than 331,000 tickets were handed out statewide for handheld cell phone use while driving.

For more information on distracted driving, please visit www.Safeny.ny.gov or www.distraction.gov.

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