It turns out, New Yorkers – and Americans at large – have a selfie problem. More specifically, they can’t seem to stop taking selfies while driving.
New York State recently received the dubious honor of being among the top 10 states with drivers who post the highest number of selfies. In a new report, the Auto Insurance Center ranked New York No. 8 in the country with 1.29 driving selfie posts per 100,000 residents.
In conjunction with the announcement of the report, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee have issued a warning to motorists about the dangers of selfies while driving. The warning comes just weeks after the DMV told New Yorkers to stop playing the popular Pokémon Go app while driving or walking near or across roadways.
Distracted driving causes more than 3,300 deaths every year, according to the Department of Transportation. Taking a photo while driving is even more distracting than texting or talking and recording a video can be even more dangerous. This is especially true when the photo or video includes the driver. A separate AAA report says a driver’s eyes leave the road for at least two seconds to snap a selfie, during which time a car can travel 176 feet, or nearly the length of two basketball courts, at 60 miles per hour.
The fact that something as dangerous as selfies while driving has become so commonplace points to a cultural problem, says an earlier report by the Auto Insurance Center. According to the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, adults are a big part of the problem, but teens in particular are overrepresented in crash statistics, especially when distracted driving is involved.
Kara Macek, a spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Administration, said both children and parents should work to educate each other. “[Kids] can impress upon their parents by saying, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m not comfortable with you doing that,’” she says.
Corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies are working to address the problem. AT&T has produced a series of reports and public service announcements highlighting the dangers of distracted driving as part of its It Can Wait campaign, now in its sixth year. The campaign’s latest video, “Close to Home,” has already been viewed 25 million times.
Scott Tibbitts, founder and chief executive officer of the startup Katasi, is leveraging technology to help cut back on distracted driving. Katasi offers a product called Groove, which blocks all incoming texts, status updates, and calls to the driver’s phone while the car is in motion.
New York is one of only 14 states (plus Washington, D.C.) to prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones. State law defines distracted driving as any use of an electronic device while driving, including a smartphone, camera, or MP3 player.
Legislators increased the number of points for a texting-while-driving infraction in 2015 from three to five points, the second such increase in five years. Violators also face fines and potential insurance increases. In addition, probationary and junior drivers face a 120-day suspension for a first offense and can lose their license for one year if a second offense is committed within six months.
If you or someone you love has received a ticket for taking a selfie while driving, or for any other type of distracted driving, it is essential that you retain an attorney. Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law Firm is an experienced criminal defense and traffic ticket attorney with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email him or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.