Distracted Driving and Traffic Stops

In New York state, drivers are banned from using handheld devices, and texting while driving is illegal.

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.

All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.

These types of distractions include: Texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.

  • In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010.
  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)

Understanding Traffic Stops

The most common reason officers conduct traffic stops is to enforce the law and to encourage voluntary compliance with these laws. The goal is to reduce injuries and deaths on our roadways. This is another reason why officers encourage us to do things like wear our seat belts, use child safety seats for our little ones, and not speed or drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

An image of a DPS officer standing alongside a patrol car and speaking to the driver of a stopped vehicle beside him. Many officers are killed each year and thousands more are injured in traffic-related incidents. For example, in 1999, over half of all line-of-duty officer deaths were related to traffic incidents. Officers often find uninsured drivers, drivers with suspended licenses, imparied drivers, illegal firearms, drugs, and fugitives. This is why officers are trained to place a great deal of emphasis on their safety and take a defensive posture at the stop, until the risk of confrontation or injury is diminished.

Police vehicles are equipped with a variety of electronics that help assist officers with their duties and responsibilities, such as in-car camera surveillance systems, license plate readers, radar units, and mobile computers.

What you should do, in the event that you are pulled over:

  • Always carry proper identification: a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Never attempt to outrun the patrol vehicle or pretend that you don’t see the emergency lights or hear the siren.
  • Stay in your vehicle, unless you are asked to exit it.
  • If you are asked to exit the vehicle, do so slowly.
  • Remain calm. If there are passengers, also ask them to remain calm, quiet, and cooperative.
  • Do not let anyone in your vehicle make threatening statements or gestures to the officers.
  • Avoid automatically thinking that the stop was based on race, gender, religion, national or ethnic origin.
  • Keep you hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Ask your passengers to place their hands in plain view, such as on their laps.
    Do not duck down or make sudden movements.
  • If you or any passengers have any weapons (whether on your person, or in the vehicle), let the officer know immediately.
  • Remember to practice the Golden Rule: Treat the officer like you would want to be treated.
  • Understand that there are times when officers have to speak loudly because they are near traffic and other noisy conditions. They are not trying to intimidate you.
  • If you disagree with the ticket, your opportunity to voice this opposition is at traffic court, not on the side of a roadway.

If you have any questions, call the Department of Public Safety at 315.443.2224.

Statistics from the US Government Website for Distracted Driving