New York lawmakers pursue text messaging ban for drivers

| 8/6/2007

Police in New York would be allowed to pull over drivers for typing, reading or sending text messages while at the wheel, if two state lawmakers get their way.

Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, have offered legislation that would ban so-called “texting” while driving.

The legislation has drawn a lot of attention since five teenagers were killed in a head-on wreck last month near Rochester, NY. Police know text messages were sent and received on the 17-year-old driver’s cell phone moments before the SUV carrying five young women collided with a tractor-trailer, The Associated Press reported.

The legislation would amend the state’s existing ban on using any cell phone that is not a “hands-free” device.

Marcellino said he expects the bill – S3195 – to reach the Senate floor for consideration this fall. If signed into law, violators would be fined $100 for texting – the same fine for violating the cell phone restriction.

A similar texting ban has been signed into law in Washington. California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are considering similar rules.

Efforts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices, such as Blackberry-type devices, while driving have picked up steam across the country following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. Nearly three-quarters of drivers use cell phones.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2007, click here.