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It is time to quit driving while distracted, once and for all

Distracted driving kills. There is no way around it. If you drive around New York City while chatting on your cellphone, scanning a quick text, daydreaming, or focusing too much on your kids in the backseat, you are risking your own life and those of others. In 2012, a total of 3,328 people were killed in car accidents that involved distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you have bad driving habits like those mentioned above, the time to kick them is now. April is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and New Yorkers should take this opportunity to commit to driving without distractions and to encourage their friends and loved ones to do the same.

The main reason to pledge not to be a distracted driver should be to protect yourself and others, but fines and other penalties may also deter you from distracted driving.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Police and local law enforcement agencies would be increasing distracted driving checkpoints and patrols. Cuomo has also urged the New York Department of Motor Vehicles to come up with tougher penalties for distracted driving.

As it stands, a distracted driving citation can result in fines and points against a driving record; young drivers and new drivers can also have their licenses suspended. Some people think they will never get caught for distracted driving, but during the state's "Operation Hang Up" campaign late last year more than 875 tickets were issued.

And, police may not have to pull you over to catch you in the act of distracted driving. Instead, they may find out at the car accident scene when investigating the cause of injuries or even fatalities. Distracted drivers who cause car accidents can be held responsible in the criminal system and the civil system. While police and prosecutors handle the criminal side, it is up to victims and their loved ones to pursue civil actions against distracted drivers to obtain compensation for their losses.

Source: LongIsland.com, "Governor Cuomo Announces 'Operation Hang Up' to Stop Distracted Driving," April 9, 2014

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