Westchester County law enforcement officials took turns texting-while-driving Monday afternoon in downtown White Plains.
It all took place on a simulator and far away from any real roadways, but the results were all too familiar — frequent accidents, pricey tickets and serious injuries.
District Attorney Janet DiFiore also spotlighted recent efforts to crack down on texting-while-driving, which include increased enforcement throughout the county and the use of a simulator, which depicts several grisly accidents, at local high schools.
"Texting and driving poses a threat to everyone who uses the roads," DeFiore said. "And we don't need the research to tell us [that]—although it does."
The research DiFiore referenced can be frightening. Studies have shown it takes four to six second to read a text message—and for a driver cruising down the highway, that's the length of a football field spent not looking out the windshield.
Additionally, drivers' reaction times are doubled when texting, and motorists are six times as likely to be involved in an accident, DiFiore said.
Police Chief Louis Alagno of Mt. Pleasant was also on hand, and stressed new techniques authorities are taking to nab dangerous drivers. Unmarked police vehicles will take to the streets, enforcing a law that can slam drivers with three points on their license and a fine well over $100. Before legislation was bolstered, a driver could not even be penalized for texting-while-driving unless they were pulled over for another infraction.
"Enforcement is the primary way to combat texting and driving," Alagno continued. "But the issue is not avoiding a ticket, it's avoiding an accident that harms you or someone else."
There is a proactive approach, too, that relies on the simulator. The game requires users to drop a friend off at home while simultaneously sending text messages—and nearly every attempt ends with thousands of dollars in repairs, a hefty ticket and a pedestrian being airlifted to a hospital.
The simulator is borrowed from the Nationwide Insurance Company, and being trotted out to places like White Plains High School, New Rochelle High School and Iona Prep. Teens send about 3,300 texts each month, studies show, and are particularly susceptible to texting-while-driving.