New York advances distracted driving rule

| Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The New York Senate has approved a bill that would forbid drivers from watching videos while behind the wheel. Similar laws related to driver distractions, with particular focus on video screens in vehicles, have draw consideration this year in several states.

New York state law already prohibits drivers from watching any video-monitoring device that is in front of the back of the driver’s seat – regardless of whether the device interferes with safe driving.

Sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, the bill would amend the law to prohibit satellite video entertainment broadcasts, VCR or DVD transmissions or replays, or any other similar video entertainment presentations located within the driver’s view.

The bill would provide an exception if the equipment is disabled while the vehicle is in motion. It would also exempt global positioning and navigational display systems.

Marcellino’s bill – S1310 – has been sent to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

New York isn’t alone in its pursuit for stricter guidelines of what drivers can and cannot view while behind the wheel.

Massachusetts law already prohibits drivers from watching any device that receives a television broadcast if it’s located in front of the back of the driver’s seat or is visible to the driver – regardless of whether the device interferes with safe driving.

Sponsored by Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, the bill would amend the law to prohibit drivers from watching any device capable of displaying “a television broadcast or video feed” that is located within the driver’s view.

The restriction wouldn’t apply to dashboard readouts or other displays of information about a vehicle’s operation or conduct.

Drivers found in violation of the rule could be fined between $100 and $200.

Barrios’ bill – S1864 – is in the Joint Committee on Transportation.

A failed effort in the Alaska Legislature would also have forbidden drivers from watching television or video monitors while the vehicle is moving. It allotted for stiffer penalties if the driver causes an accident that kills or injures another person.

Sponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, the bill would have created the crime of driving with a screen operating.

Watching the video screen while driving could have resulted in a misdemeanor charge and a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000. If a person watching the screen was involved in an accident and injures or kills another person, the charges would have jumped from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The House-approved bill, HB12, remained in a Senate committee when the session ended.

Another failed effort would have added DVDs and video games to the off-limits list in Wisconsin.

Drivers found in violation of the rule could have been fined as much as $400.

Sponsored by Rep. Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay, bill – AB567 – failed to get a final vote on the Assembly floor.

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