Ortiz Says AAA Driver Distraction Study Is Flawed: Minimizes Dangers of Cell Phones on Highway Safety

August 13, 2003
Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) criticized an American Automobile Association (AAA) study on driver distractions because its data does not consider the high level of concentration required to carry on a phone conversation while driving and incorrectly downplays the dangers cell phones pose to traffic safety.

“The study conducted by AAA is flawed because out of the driver distraction categories they measured their observations on, only the cell phone has the ability to take a person’s concentration totally away from his driving environment, causing he or she to be severely distracted and a threat to other drivers,” said Ortiz, the sponsor of New York State’s cell phone driving ban.

“The study merely documents the frequency of about a dozen or so mostly known driver distractions, it does not quantify the degree of distraction or distinguish which ones have the greater or lesser ability to strip a driver’s attention away from the task at hand.

“Cell phones, by their unique nature, can connect us to places where we are not and take our mind off the speed of the vehicle, its position in traffic, the direction we want to go and numerous other decisions that are required to drive an automobile safely.

“As an alarming number of automobile accidents and fatalities attributed to drivers using cell phones occurred in the late 1990’s, during the cell phone explosion, several communities across the state either enacted or contemplated bans on cell phones and driving. In 2001, the New York State cell phone law passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed by the governor to do two things: improve traffic safety and save lives.

“I firmly believe the law is serving its purpose and preventing the loss of life on our highways. I urge other states to protect their citizens and outlaw the use of cell phones while driving,” said Ortiz.