New York Distracted Driving Laws
- Handheld ban for all drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary Law).
New York’s Texting While Driving Stand
In the past three years, New York legislators have been hard at work to add new laws to prevent drivers from texting while operating their vehicles. Constant rule changes have made it difficult for drivers to keep up with the laws that affect them the most. Understanding the history of the legislation in New York can help all drivers determine if their texting habits put them at risk for fines.
Current Texting Laws
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation that pushed the enforcement of texting during driving to full primary status. This means police officers in the state are treating it as seriously as speeding and weaving through traffic and allows drivers to be pulled over without committing another offense. Getting ticketed for the offense will add a violation point to your license. The penalty for this crime remains the same, at $150, but increases the focus of police officers on texting drivers. This bill overwrites any lesser penalties set by cities and counties and applies in areas where there are no other local distracted driving laws.
Current Distracted Driving Laws
- All forms of text messaging and other uses of handheld cell phones banned while driving-safety
- Taxi drivers are banned from making calls with cell phones while the vehicle is in motion, regardless of the equipment they use
- All drivers must make calls with approved hands-free devices while the vehicle is in motion
Distracted driving violations involving cell phones were bumped up to a two-point violation in 2011. Prior to this, using a cell phone to talk while driving caused points on the driver’s license, but texting was not included. Laws concerning the use of cell phones while driving were first introduced in 2009.
Bill SB 998b stripped the secondary enforcement association from the state’s distracted driving laws. It also clarified exactly which forms of cell phone use were prohibited to drivers. A safety lecture on cell phone use was added to all education and testing involved with licensing for new drivers. The fine and license points remained the same. The Senate and Assembly approved the bill on May 3rd, and the bill became law on July 12.
Bill A8106 aimed to move the texting laws in New York to primary status. This bill was signed by both the Assembly and Senate on June 14. The governor passed it into law on July 12th.
Bill A4514 prohibited drivers from installing video screens, such as DVD players, unless they were installed behind the driver’s seat. The bill included exemptions for navigation systems and GPS units. It has passed both the Senate and Assembly but has not yet been signed by the governor.
Bill S1877 involved banning the use of cell phones and electronic devices for all drivers currently using restricted licenses or learner’s permits. It has not yet been passed. A similar bill was proposed in 2008, known as A05322. It would restrict drivers under 20 and those within the first two years of their permanent license from using any handheld or hands-free devices while driving.
Bill A2031 was the first piece of legislation to address text messaging specifically. This was passed as part of A8568.
Bill A8568 expanding the existing laws to cover all portable electronic devices, not just cell phones. Anything that could be used to play games, watch videos, browse the Internet, read email or text message was banned from use during driving. This was passed as part of a larger driver safety bill proposed by the New York DOT. Both the Assembly and Senate passed it over the summer, and the governor signed it into law on August 26th.
Bill S1547 passed in March of 2009, which requires officers to include information on cell phone usage in accident reports. This would help the state better measure exactly how cell phones and distracted driving contributes to the accident rates, but so far has not yet been implemented by the Department of Transportation.