New York lawmakers fail to advance distracted driving bill

| Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A bill in the New York Assembly that would have made inattentive driving a traffic infraction has died.

Sponsored by Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, the bill was introduced during the 2005 legislative session but failed to move forward. The measure was reintroduced earlier this year but never made it out of committee before the two-year regular session wrapped up Thursday, June 22.

This wasn’t the first attempt at making inattentive driving a traffic infraction. Similar efforts were brought up in the previous two sessions only to stall in committees.

This year’s version defined inattentive driving as a non-driving activity that “unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway.”

The bill – A3518 – would have required any person who interferes with the flow of traffic as a result of inattentive driving to face a fine between $50 and $250. Any person found guilty of three inattentive driving violations during an 18-month period would have been guilty of reckless driving.

The measure listed five examples of inattentive activities while driving:

  • Sleeping;
  • Smoking;
  • Eating;
  • Faxing; and
  • Reading.

Gantt’s bill wasn’t the only highway safety-related effort this year in the New York Legislature to fail passage.

A bill in the Senate would have forbidden drivers from watching videos while behind the wheel.

State law already prohibits drivers from watching any video monitoring device that is located 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 have amended 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 have provided an exception if the equipment is disabled while the vehicle is in motion. It would also have exempted global positioning and navigational display systems.

Marcellino’s bill – S1310 – won passage in the Senate only to stall in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

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