New York Adds Teeth to Laws Against Texting While Driving

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York  said today that he will be introducing new legislation that will crack down on drivers using portable devices while driving. The legislation will include a provision to make texting while driving a primary offense like it is in Washington. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning police can only issue a ticket if the driver is pulled over for another offense, like speeding.

The legislation introduced by Cuomo would make using any portable device while driving, including iPhones and Blackberries, a primary offense. The bill would also increase the penalty from two to three points on a person’s license, and distracted driving curriculum will be made mandatory for anyone seeking a license. The maximum fine will stay the same at $150.

In a statement, Cuomo said that “Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road.” He also said  “Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians.”

Records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that there were almost 332,000 tickets issued in the state of New York for cell phone use while driving and only 3,200 for texting while driving. This data is from 2010, the first full year that cell phone use was considered a primary offense.

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman David Gantt said last week that the bill is expected to pass before session ends June 20. Gantt remains hopeful that a deal can be reached, and Cuomo says that he is working with lawmakers to get an agreement this session. Distracted driving has been a problem in New York where several fatal accidents have occurred as a result of distracted driving in the past few years.

In June, 2007, five teenage girls died in a car crash linked to texting. In December of the same year, a 20-year-old man died in a crash while sending a text message. In 2009, a 22-year old woman died as a result of texting while driving which caused her to crash into a truck. These accidents caused many counties to pass their own laws making texting while driving a primary offense, but state laws superseded them.

It is very encouraging to see that other states are joining the fight against distracted driving. By September of this year, there will be 32 states where texting while driving is a primary offense. Distracted driving is far too dangerous to ignore. A study done at the University of Utah showed that while people are texting and driving it reduces their attention level down to that of a person with an alcohol level of 0.08%. People know about the dangers of distracted driving, but continue to put their lives and the lives of others in danger. I hope that laws similar to this one are passed in all 50 states so that we can be one step closer to winning the battle against distracted driving.

Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle personal injury attorney Jason Epstein. Jason’s law firm, Premier Law Group, helps victims of serious injuries caused by the negligence of others. To speak with Jason about TADD or about a personal injury you have suffered, call Premier Law Group at (206) 285-1743