Texting Driver Hits Deliveryman; Pols Mull Tougher Enforcement

Tuesday, Sep 21, 2010  |  Updated 12:00 PM EDT
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Texting Driver Hits Deliveryman; Pols Mull Tougher Enforcement

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Gov. Paterson wants to strengthen enforcement on the ban on texting while driving.

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A Chinese restaurant deliveryman is clinging to life in a Brooklyn hospital - just two days after a distracted driver carelessly ran over his scooter as she composed a text message.

The delivery driver, identified as 53-year-old Tian Sheng Lin, was declared brain dead, authorities said.

But the smash-up comes amid a string of texting-while-driving accidents, and just more than a month since New York's Assembly approved legislation aimed at strengthening a ban on texting while driving.

The driver in Sunday's incident, 19-year-old Nechama Rothberger, was behind the wheel of a 2005 Toyota Camry on Avenue P in Midwood when she rear-ended Tian around 11:30 p.m. Sunday night as they both made the same left turn.

Investigators found a cell phone in Rothberger's car with a half-composed text message, the New York Post reports.

The delivery driver, who worked for Best China Restaurant in Midwood, was the father of three, among them a 19-year-old daughter, the paper said.

"My dad did everything for his family. He always took care of us," dauther Anna told the Post.

Rothberger was arrested on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and her mom posted the $5000 bail to free her from jail.

Currently, the distracted driver law levies a $150 fine for those found to be texting or talking on cell phones will driving, but enforcement is called "secondary"  because drivers aren't stopped for that reason alone.

Gov. David Paterson and the State Assembly want to upgrade the law to a primary offense, meaning officers can stop and cite drivers for that reason alone.  The legislation is pending in the Senate.

"This bill will take the handcuffs off our law enforcement officers and make our highways safer by allowing officers to observe a violation and immediately issue a summons,” Paterson said.

It is unclear if charges against Rothberger will be upgraded.

A recent study into just how distracted text messaging can make an individual found that the human brain can't even reconcile walking and texting. 

In a study at Aston University in Birmingham, Dr. Joanna Lumsden set up color coded warnings to flash on a path walked by people composing a text message. They missed on average one in five warnings.

There's also a national push to crack down on distracted drivers and to allow for tougher enforcement by police and other law enforcement.  At a summit in Washington today,  Obama administration officials said during a second summit on distracted driving that it had made progress in pushing states to target drivers who send text messages and use mobile devices from the road, but too many people are being killed because of in attentive mortorists.

"Ever time someone takes their focus off the road --even if it's just for a moment -- they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,'' said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
 

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