If you drive anywhere in the city of New York (or apparently anywhere else in the tri-state area as well) the sight of a driver with a cell phone pasted to his or her face is common. See that car ahead, speeding up and slowing down for no apparent reason? Get up next to it and what do you see: the driver on a cell phone. An erratic lane changer: drunk or tired maybe—nope: cell phone. And how about the SUV driver that races you to the red light, and then when the light turns green seems to be unable to find the gas pedal he was so familiar with only seconds before? Is he really trying to get you steamed? Nah—cell phone!

Recent research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has found that cell phones and text messaging while driving greatly increase the chance of a crash or near-crash event. Dialing a cell phone while driving increases the chance of a crash by almost 3 times. Just talking on the phone raises the chance 1.3 times. And text messaging while driving—which 1 out of 4 drivers admit to doing—raises the chance of a crash by almost 24 times over non-distracted driving!! The dangers of driving while cell phoning and driving while texting—dubbed DWT buy some—has even got the attention of some Senators who are seeking a nationwide ban on the practices.

In New York City the worst offenders have got to be—sorry guys and gals—taxi drivers. Little known, cabbies have been banned from using mobile phones—even those with hands free devices—for over a decade. Due to mediocre enforcement and almost universal violation of the ban, cell phone use by cabbies accounts for a large percentage of taxi accidents.

So—consider carefully what you do when you drive. Driving while on the phone or texting can be as or even more dangerous than if you were to drive drunk. New York makes it illegal to drive and talk on a mobile phone that does not have a hands-free device. And if you are in a accident with a cell phone distracted driver—be sure to let the police at the scene and your insurance company know.