On July 12, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a texting while driving ban in an effort to curb one of the main factors in the plague of distracted driving. Everyone has observed a driver next to them or in front swerving within their lane or literally driving off of the roadway as a result of the use of a handheld device, whether on the phone or texting. The Law, Section 1225-D of the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, prohibits the use of a “portable handheld device” while driving. Portable electronic devices include a mobile telephone, laptop computer, two way messaging device, and electronic games.
Drivers holding the device in a conspicuous manner are presumed to be “using” the device, which includes holding the device while viewing, taking or sending images, composing, sending, reading or browsing text messages, e-mails or other electronic data. The two exceptions to the ban are for emergency situations, (such as in accidents) and by police, firefighters or other emergency personnel if they are using the device in their official capacities.
The original texting while driving law created what is known as a secondary infraction, meaning that the investigating officer would have to observe the driver committing another offense such as speeding, disregarding a traffic control device or making an unsafe lane change before he could stop the driver and issue a summons.
In the year since texting ban went into effect, the numbers are dramatic: There were 20,958 tickets handed out since July 2011 for texting while driving, whereas in the year before the total ban, there were 4,569 summons issued. A 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to get into an accident. This is one law that it is hard to find opposition to, and unlike other regulations which get bogged down on party lines in Albany (similar to our non-functional federal government), the ban passed in an expeditious manner.
The texting while driving ban also included an increase in the points assessed by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles for the infraction from 2 to 3. The fine for a violation is $150.00 plus a mandatory New York State surcharge of $85.00. If a driver has a total of 11 points on his or her license within an 18 month period, the license will be suspended. Taking a safe driver’s class either in person or online will result in a 4 point reduction, and a 10% decrease in insurance premiums. The class can be taken once every 3 years.