New York ‘texting’ while driving ban takes effect Nov. 1

| 10/30/2009

Starting Sunday, Nov. 1, New York will become the latest state to move to prevent drivers from being distracted while at the wheel.

A new law that takes effect forbids the use of mobile devices for reading, typing and sending text messages when traveling roadways.

“The risks associated with texting while driving are well documented,” Paterson said in a statement. “As we learn more and more about just how dangerous this practice can be, I urge all New Yorkers to drive with caution and get in the habit of putting their cell phones away while driving to protect their own lives and the lives of others.”

Nearly 20 states have approved bans on the practice of operating a motor vehicle while texting. New York becomes the 13th state to enforce its ban. Colorado and North Carolina texting bans are slated to take effect Dec. 1. Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire are scheduled to start enforcing their laws Jan. 1.

Intended to help reduce a contributing factor to distracted driving, violations in New York will be a secondary offense – meaning drivers would face $150 tickets if they are pulled over for another reason.

New York already makes it against the law to talk on a cell phone while driving. However, dialing the number is not a violation.

Attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using the devices for texting while driving have picked up steam this year. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has fueled increased interest in efforts to put a stop to use of the technology. Researchers found that drivers are more than 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while texting at the wheel.

In addition to continuing efforts to adopt texting bans at statehouses in Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, the findings have energized lawmakers in several other states to pursue legislation during their 2010 sessions. More efforts are anticipated as Congress is getting involved.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, have offered legislation that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while driving or do without 25 percent of their federal highway funds.

A similar effort introduced this week by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, would include a restriction on cell phone use with the ban on texting while driving. This version would dole out $30 million in grants to states that pass laws to curb distracted driving.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is working with the Department of Transportation to help reduce distracted driving.

The Association would like to see more ride-alongs with law enforcement agencies. The experience allows officers to sit in the cab and see firsthand how people drive around trucks. Such programs could also lead to better enforcement of existing traffic laws.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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