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12 Jun2011

NY May Crack Down Further On Texting While Driving

Governor Cuomo plans to introduce a bill to toughen existing laws prohibiting drivers from texting or use of portable electronic devices while driving. The bill closes loopholes and adds stricter penalties for distracted driving, which contributes to more than 10,000 crashes per year in New York state.

Cuomo issued a statement on the bill:  “Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road,” said Cuomo. “Current warnings, educational programs, and driving laws aren’t working. We need to impose a true deterrent to stop people from driving while using an electronic device and to keep our roads and citizens safe.”

New York’s existing law on texting while driving passed in 2009.   The biggest perceived weakness in the existing law is a provision that makes distracted driving a “secondary offense,” meaning a traffic ticket for texting while driving will not be issued unless the driver had been pulled over for another infraction.  A discussion of the current texting law and how it differs from the current cell phone law (which is not a “secondary offense”) can be found here:  Texting While Driving and Cell Phone Tickets

The Cuomo bill would make distracted driving a primary offense, increase the number of points the violation carries from two to three, and mandate education on the dangers of distracted driving as part of the NY defensive driving curriculum.

The bill does not go as far as some would like it to:  ban cell phone use while driving altogether, hands free or not.

In related news, NY representative Carolyn McCarthy has introduced national legislation regarding cell phone use while driving.