Distracted Driving - Cell PhonesA Police Perspective Lieutenant Kevin Caslin Nassau County Police Department Highway Patrol Bureau (516)- 573-8216 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nassau County Demographics • Population – 1.3 million • Highly educated, highly affluent, highly professional • Median family income - $ 81,246 • Almost 38% of the population earns in excess of $100,000 • Median value of home - $ 240,000 • Lowest crime rate in the nation for municipalities with populations over 1 million
Nassau County Police Department • Founded in 1925 • 2,500 sworn members -1,100 civilian members • Eight precincts (covers 75% of the county) • Special Units • Detective Division • Crime lab • Police Academy • Marine-Aviation Bureau
Highway Patrol Bureau • 126 sworn members • Motorcycle Platoon • Motor Carrier Safety Unit • Canine Unit • Emergency Services Unit • Two major limited access highways – I-495 and SR-135. • Issued approximately 84,000 summonses in 2003.
Nassau County Accident Data • Distracted driving accidents- • 1990- 1,428 • 1994- 1,660 • 1998- 1,812 • 2002- 2,956 • 107% increase in distracted driving related accidents in 13 years.
Cell Phone Related Data • Cell phones nationwide- • 1985- 345,000 • 1998- 50 million • 2001- 117 million • 2002- 128 million • 127 million of those can be found in Nassau County !
Impetus Behind Cell Phone Legislation • Significant media attention as the result of two cell phone related fatal accidents, one with a Long Island connection. • Morgan Lee Pena- two year old from Pennsylvania killed by a 27 year old man who ran stop sign while dialing his cell phone. • John and Carol Hall, husband and wife from Suffolk County, killed by Naval Academy midshipman on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999. • Cell phone related distracted driving is now a major news story on Long Island and local politicians begin to respond.
Local New York County Cell Phone Laws • Westchester County enacts local law April, 2000. • Prohibits use of hand-held phones and prohibits dialing. • Suffolk County enacts local law January, 2001. • Prohibits use of hand- held cell phones but does not prohibit dialing. • Rockland legislature passes local law - County Executive vetoes law and demands state action. • Nassau County enacts local law August, 2001. • Prohibits use of hand-held cell phones and dialing of phone. • Confusion reigns supreme!
New York State Cell Phone Law • First state to enact a cell phone ban -effective December, 2001. • Prohibits hand-held use but does not prohibit dialing. • $105 fine for first offense.Up to $ 500 for repeat offenses. • Exempts emergency calls to police, fire, doctor, etc. • Provides a one month grace period. • Prohibits all local jurisdictions from passing local laws regulating the use of cell phones while driving.
New York State Cell Phone Law - continued • Will it have the intended effect? • The justification for the law was that hand-held phones cause accidents, however, recent studies appear to indicate there is little or no difference between hand-held versus hands-free.
Nassau County Cell Phone Data • 2002 - Approximately 5,100 cell phone summonses issued by NCPD. • 2003 - YTD approximately 2,900 cell phone summonses issued by NCPD.
Nassau County Cell Phone Data - continued • Accident data is enormously underreported. • Extremely unlikely that driver is likely to admit to unlawful cell phone use when involved in accident. • Requires an admission or a witness, preferably an independent witness.
Nassau County Cell Phone Data - continued • Seventy-seven cell phone related auto accidents from 2001-2003. • Generally, police tend not to focus on “driver inattention” in a minor rear end accident. Police must improve this aspect of accident investigation. Accurate reporting is crucial to future legislation. • Serious or fatal accidents - it is standard procedure for Nassau County detectives to request/subpoena cell phone records.
Enforcement Issues • Generally, the new law was well received by public. • Nationwide poll conducted in the Spring of 2002 revealed that 71% of the respondents would support a hand-held ban on cell phones. • 67% would support insurance “points “ if involved in a crash. • 60% of all drivers would support a complete ban on all cell phone use while driving.
Enforcement Issues - continued • Personal observation- there appears to have been greater compliance shortly after law was enacted than at present. • It is also possible that non-compliance may appear greater due to ever increasing number of cell phones. • Non-compliance rate estimated as high as 50% by SCPD. • An unintended consequence of the new law- unlawful stopping on shoulders. One fatality within first six months.
Reasons For Non-compliance? • Most significant defect in the law is the lack of “moving violation points”. • No driver’s license penalty. • No insurance penalty • $ 105 fine. May increase up to $500 for subsequent violations. • We have not yet effectively convinced the general public of just how great the risk is. • We failed to recognize the danger and the explosive growth of cell phones and did not stay ahead of the curve in educating the public.
What Can and Must be Done? • Changing an established and accepted habit/practice is difficult for the police to do, but is not impossible. • A “cultural” change must occur, similar to seatbelt, DWI, and Domestic Violence enforcement. • This “cultural” change can only occur through education.
What Can and Must Be Done? - continued • Education includes, but not limited to, punishment (summons, fines, points). • Local law enforcement must be vocal proponents. Police must be the first group to be “educated” to the danger and must buy into the program. • The public must be presented with convincing proof of danger or consequences of non-compliance. This will probably require more studies, more research and improved police accident investigations/reports.
What Can and Must be Done ? - continued • Emphasize the civil liability exposure. • “Phoneslaughter”- April 16,2001, Karen Morris runs a red light while speeding and kills two people. She later pleads guilty to three felony counts of reckless driving. Large restitution award, five years probation, and twenty-six weekends in jail. She was spared a lengthier jail sentence because the victims family didn’t want her to spend years in hail.
Summary • A Selden man who was married in March was killed Thursday afternoon when he was struck, while trying to change a tire, by a driver whose license had been suspended.
Summary - continued • Ryan Duryee, 27, a New York City firefighter, died of injuries from the crash on Sunrise Highway in Bohemia. Suffolk police said the driver of the vehicle, Nickolas Barone, 43, told police that he was DISTRACTED when he tried to wake up his sleeping 10-year-old son sitting beside him. He unintentionally drove off the road and struck Duryee,who was changing the right rear tire of his car.