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Drivers Must Get The Message

Motorists caught while using cellphones in New Hyde Park

At any given moment, one out of every 10 drivers on the streets of New Hyde Park is texting, talking or otherwise engaged with a handheld cellphone. This widespread disregard for the law as well as the safety of our children and neighbors is the startling finding of a study conducted by the New Hyde Park Illustrated News. Earlier this month, our reporters observed 300 cars on New Hyde Park Road at various times of day, and found 42 of the drivers blatantly brandishing their phones.

 

“It creates such a hazard,” Lakeville Estates Civic Association President Marianna Wohlgemuth said. “I see it all the time. I amazed at how selfish [drivers] are because nothing can be that important to endanger your life. It’s as bad as driving while drunk to me.”

 

And New Hyde Park is not alone. Identical studies conducted by our reporters in other Nassau County communities showed up to 13 percent of drivers with phone in hand (Great Neck), but no fewer than 9.7 percent in Jericho and Port Washington.

 

“Texting and driving has become one of the newest dangers,” said Christopher Mistron of Nassau County Traffic and Safety Department. “A simple ‘How are you?” can steer drivers off the road and increases the possibility of a crash greatly.”

 

Nationally, deaths from cellphone-related auto crashes have surpassed those involving alcohol—3,000 per year compared to 2,700—and lead to 330,000 injuries per year, according to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. 

 

“Texting while driving is unique in that it uses both of your hands and your eyes, all of which are needed for driving,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York. “Some people think they can get away with doing it briefly but that’s not the case.”

 

A recent report from the Washington, D.C.-based AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety underscored that point, showing that even a hands-free phone impairs a driver’s ability to see danger and react. In the AAA study, cognitive distraction expert Dr. David Strayer and a team from the University of Utah measured brain waves and eye movements to assess shifts in drivers’ mental workloads when they attempted to multi-task. Cameras inside the cars tracked eye and head movement, while another mechanism recorded the motorists’ reaction time and an electroencephalographic skull cap charted brain activity.

 

“These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free,” said Peter Kissinger, who heads the foundation. “Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.”

 

That is, the driver not only misses much of what’s ahead, but also neglects to look in the side and rearview mirrors.

 

“Everything has to be instant today and it’s costing people their lives or risking serious injury,” Wohlgemuth stated. “Back in the day, we had to rely on phones before going out. Now, it’s just an onslaught of information people need at their fingertips.”

 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has advocated stricter laws since 2011, when he signed legislation making distracted driving a primary traffic offense, which allows police to pull a driver over purely for handheld cellphone use behind the wheel. More recently, Cuomo deployed troopers in Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles to patrol highways statewide and increased the penalty for texting from three to five points on a license.

 

“Drivers are being selfish, worrying about who’s texting them or who’s emailing them, when they should be concentrating on the road,” said Wohlgemuth. “Turn off your phone when you get in the car.”

 

Nonetheless, for many, the urge to respond to a buzzing phone is automatic, despite the life and death implications of staying  focused when controlling several thousand pounds of steel traveling upwards of 88 feet per second at 60 miles per hour.

 

“Nothing is so important to take away from driving,” said Sinclair. “People who think they can text and drive...it’s insanity.”

 

And, according to experts, the insanity is spreading. 

 

“It has crossed over to every age group,” said Mistron, “although it may be more prevalent in inexperienced drivers because they think they can get away with it.”

 

Cohen’s Children Medical Center in New Hyde Park analyzed a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted of 15,000 geographically and demographically diverse high school students, which included questions about texting. The Cohen Center team examined the rate of texting while driving among teens, how this behavior correlates with other risky behaviors, and to what extent laws make a difference.

 

Their conclusions? Nearly half of all teenagers text and drive.

 

“Unfortunately kids are texting like crazy because its second nature to teenagers these days,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen. “They fail to appreciate the risks associated with texting while driving.”

 

According to Dr. Adesman, the rising wave in accidents by teenagers is a “perfect storm.” Teenagers are the newest and most inexperienced drivers, and adding a distraction like texting only increases the likelihood of a crash.

 

Unfortunately Dr. Adesman found that there is virtually no difference in texting rates between states that have laws prohibiting it and those that don’t, which seems to prove that the laws aren’t working.

 

“You can legislate up the wazoo, but people still have to comply,” said Sinclair. “Unfortunately, people still don’t get it.”

 

While legislation doesn’t seem to be a deterrent, many advocates, including Dr. Adesman, look to the cellphone manufacturers to help make the difference.

 

“There should be a technological solution to a technological problem,” he said, adding that there is an app that immobilizes the phone’s texting feature at speeds above 10 miles per hour.


News

Shake Shack, a burger restaurant giant which launched in New York City, is looking to establish its second Long Island location in New Hyde Park, reps told the New Hyde Park Illustrated News. The company opened its first Long Island spot in Westbury in November 2012.

 

“We’ve received such a warm welcome in Westbury,” said Edwin Bragg, Shake Shack’s marketing director. “We’ve had a lot of interest from Shake Shack fans in the many nearby villages and towns.” 

 

According to Bragg, the company makes an effort to ensure each new location is tailored to the community, taking “great care to build each Shack with custom architectural design, including forward-thinking structural elements and compelling eco-friendly design.” 

Twenty-three-year-old Victoria Inguanta of New Hyde Park has a unique approach to her artwork. The New Hyde Park Memorial High School and Marymount College graduate takes the human body and combines figurative and abstract work using just a pencil and her canvas.

 

“For instance I’ll take a classical rendering of a face and bring out a modern aspect of the art using lines and space in my composition,” said Inguanta. “To me, the combining of the two is a lot of fun.”


Sports

Tara Notrica is your typical 49-year-old mother of two. Along with her husband Barry, she is kept busy by her 14-year-old son Jared and 10-year-old daughter Samantha. One more thing: she has been battling Mast Cell disease in addition to other autoimmune diseases for the past eight years. Josh York, the CEO and founder of GYMGUYZ, an in-home personal training company, has been working closely with Notrica to help her cope with her disease.

 

“GYMGUYZ is all about the three C’s: convenient, creative and customizable workouts,” said York. “We come to the setting of your choice from homes, offices, churches, and bring our fully loaded van, which has 365 pieces of equipment,” he continued.

Nassau County Police Activity League Special Needs Unit hosted the recent Special Olympics New York Basketball Tournament held at Town of Oyster Bay Hicksville Athletic Center home of Nassau County PAL (NCPAL). Thirteen basketball teams, each with up to ten players, participated in the games. NCPAL-

Special Needs Unit Knights; NCPAL New Hyde Park Knights; SCO Owls; Commack Sharks; Long Island Lions: ACDS Thunderbolts, AHRC Starz and for the first time the Oakville Skywalkers, a Canadian team, competed on the court to demonstrate their skill and spirit of sportsmanship. After the games gold, silver and bronze medals and ribbons were awarded to each of the players.


Calendar

Back to School Night - September 10

Silver Sneaker Fitness - September 11

Beachfest - September 14


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