New York Senate OKs text messaging ban for drivers

| 6/6/2008

A bill halfway through the New York State Legislature would ban so-called “texting” while driving.

The state Senate voted to advance a bill to the Assembly that would make it illegal to type, read or send text messages while at the wheel.

The legislation has drawn a lot of attention in the state since five teenagers were killed in a head-on wreck this past summer 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.

Sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, the bill would amend the state’s existing ban on using any cell phone that is not a “hands-free” device to also include text messaging.

If signed into law, violators would be fined $100 for texting – the same fine for violating the cell phone restriction.

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-fourths of drivers use cell phones.

California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that have banned all drivers from using hand-held phones. The New Jersey and Washington state laws also prohibit text messaging. Minnesota recently approved its own ban on text messaging.

The New York bill – S3195 – to outlaw texting has moved to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor