After hearing cases involving car accidents caused by the use of cellular devices, former New Paltz Town Judge Judy Reichler founded a task force group called New Paltz Stop Distracted Driving (NPSDD).
NPSDD is a coalition of concerned citizens and members of the state, county and local law enforcement aiming to “educate as many people as possible about the many real dangers of being distracted while driving,” she said.
NPSDD which will be hosting demonstration and educational events throughout the year.
Reichler decided to create this group after hearing one of case in particular about a young woman arguing on the phone with her mother while she was driving in a vehicle with two of her friends. She crashed her car, killing one of her friends who was sitting in the backseat.
Reichler said the other friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, said that after the car crash, the driver – whose cell phone was still in her hand – tried to continue a discourse with her mother.
Although there are laws restricting cellphone use and texting while driving in New York, Reichler believes a coalition group against distracted driving is still necessary since these laws are relatively new and are only effective for people who know about them.
The committee, which is comprised of traffic safety agencies, first responders and town and village leaders, began meeting in September. They plan on holding demonstrations and educational programs in the New Paltz to educate people about not using cellular devices while driving.
Chief of Police Joseph Snyder said “statistics shows [that] the number of accidents [have] increase tremendously due to cell phone use and texting.”
According to The New York Times, studies show drivers using cellular phones are four times more likely to cause a crash and that “the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level – the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated.”
Reischler said that research have come to realize that just using hand-free devices while driving is also dangerous and that parents need to act as role models for their teens.
“I personally want to target parents [as well as teens],” Reichler said.
From Nov. 23 to Nov. 27, the NPSDD collaborated with the town police in “Operation Hang Up,” a safety-geared sweep that focuses on texting and cellphone use while driving. Reichler said that local cops and New York State Police gave out more than 70 tickets to drivers who were texting or using their cellphone while driving. The sweep took place in the New Paltz and Highland area.
“[Judy Reichler] has done a great job putting this group together,” said Snyder. “We will be working on ideas for education as well as programs to assist us in getting our message out.”
The NPSDD will be hosting their first program with Partnership for a Safer New Paltz for teen Drivers at the New Paltz High School on Saturday Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.