Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Distracted Driving, Talking & Texting

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U drive, U text, U pay

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Police officers in New York State will be looking for cell phone law violators. Enforcement mobilization dates are April 8 - 15, 2019. Don't make a dumb choice with your smart phone. Public information resources at NHTSA.

New York State's Mobile Phone and Portable Electronic Device Laws

New York prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices.

Illegal activity includes holding a portable electronic device and:

The law defines the following terms as:

(a) "Portable electronic device" shall mean any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.

(b) "Using" shall mean holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.

Exceptions to the Laws

Violation Penalties and Fines — The penalty for a violation of this law shall be 5 driver violation points and a fine, as described below. This is a primary law, which means an officer may stop you if you are observed using a hand held device. It is illegal for drivers to use handheld electronic devices while their vehicle is in motion.

On November 1, 2014, the following changes to the cell phone/texting laws for drivers with a probationary license, Class DJ, Class MJ or a learner permit take effect (for cell phone and texting violations committed on or after November 1, 2014):

On November 1, 2014, maximum fines for cell phone and/or texting use while driving will increase (for cell phone and texting violations committed on or after November 1, 2014):

On October 28, 2013 the following changes to the mobile phone/portable electronic device use law for Commercial Drivers (CDL) take effect:

Effective, July 26, 2013 fines for mobile phone/portable electronic device use while driving increased.

The surcharge for these violations that occur on or after July 26, 2013 is up to $93.

For texting and cell phone violations that occurred before July 26, 2013, the fines were:

Cell phone violation - Up to $100
Texting violation - Up to $100

The surcharge for these violations that occurred before July 26, 2013 was up to $85.


Cell Phone Use/Texting is a Danger While Driving

According to Merriam Webster, to DISTRACT is "to draw or direct (as one's attention) to a different object or in different directions at the same time." Any time a driver's attention is drawn away from the task of driving in a safe and defensive manner can be labeled as distracted driving. These distractions can be personal, external or internal.

Personal distractions can occur when the driver is impaired by daydreaming, alcohol, drugs, fatigue or unsafe practices like reading, writing, shaving, applying makeup or using electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, iPods or GPS navigation systems.

Internal distractions occur inside the car, caused by passengers, animals or objects inside the vehicle.

External distractions occur outside the car like other motorists, inclement weather, deteriorated road conditions, or even the scenery.

When these distractions occur behind the wheel of a motor vehicle the consequences can be far reaching or even deadly.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in a report created in April 2006 entitled, The Impact of Driver Inattention On Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study Data, driver inattention was defined for this report as one of the following:

  1. Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
  2. Driver drowsiness
  3. Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  4. Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

This study also listed "Driver Inattention" as the primary contributing factor to crashes and near crashes. Almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes in this study involved the driver looking away from the forward roadway just prior to the conflict.

In recent years, the most frequent form of distraction while driving has been due to cell phone use and texting.