A new piece of legislation, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in July, makes texting while driving in the Empire State a primary offense.
The new law does not change the penalties for texting while driving, which include a $150 fine and two points on one’s license, but it does make the law tougher by allowing law enforcement to pull drivers over when they are observed texting or using a handheld device while driving. Under the original 2009 law, officers could only cite a driver for texting while driving if the driver was engaged in another moving or traffic violation, such as erratic driving or speeding.
Essentially, the law allows police officers to cite anyone who is seen holding a handheld device, even if someone is merely holding their device and not using it. Governor Cuomo says the ticket would be “rebuttable” in court, but that drivers should expect their cell phone records to be subpoenaed during the hearing. The aim of the law is to reduce distracted driving accidents in New York.
Impact of Making Texting a Primary Offense
A recent campaign called “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” conducted in Syracuse, New York; and Hartford, Connecticut, found that making texting while driving a primary offense greatly reduces the number of drivers who commit the act.
In Syracuse, when texting while driving was changed from a secondary offense to a primary offense, there was a 32 percent drop in incidents of texting while driving. In Hartford, there was a 72 percent drop in texting while driving when texting was made a primary offense.
In addition to making texting while driving a primary offense, the New York legislation requires distracted driving education to obtain a driver’s license.
Between July 31st and August 6th, law enforcement in Suffolk County put the new law to the test, increasing patrols looking for distracted driving. The officers issued 1,109 summonses for distracted driving that week, as well as 1,600 summonses for other traffic violations and arrested almost 80 individuals.
The new, stronger texting while driving law should help make the state’s roads safer for everyone to use. Unfortunately some violations and accidents are bound to still happen. If you or a loved one is injured by a distracted driver, seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.