New York ramps up texting while driving enforcement

| 7/13/2011

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Tuesday, July 12, to toughen the state’s rule on texting while driving. A congressional effort is also underway to ban distracted driving nationwide.

For the past two years texting violations in New York were a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another reason, such as speeding.

The Empire State’s new law makes it a primary offense to send, receive and read text messages while at the wheel. Effective immediately, law enforcement no longer needs another reason to pull someone over.

Violators face fines up to $150 and two penalty points on a license.

“This new law will help ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” Cuomo said in a statement.

In addition, Cuomo announced his administration is increasing the number of penalty points on a license from two to three points for anyone caught using a cellphone without a hands-free device.

New York is one of 34 states to outlaw combining driving with texting. On July 1, Indiana and Iowa gave law enforcement authority to hand out tickets for the distracted driving practice. However, violations are a secondary offense.

As of Aug. 1, North Dakota police will implement their own ban. A Maine law addressing texting while driving takes effect in September. Nevada will follow suit Jan. 1, 2012.

Action on driver distractions is not limited to statehouses. A federal rule that bans texting while driving a commercial vehicle was issued a year ago.

In addition, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, has introduced a bill to implement a federal ban on the use of hand-held devices while at the wheel. The ban would apply to all drivers.

If approved, federal transportation funds would be withheld from states that do not have the ban in place. Modeled after the nation’s federal drunken driving standard, states that are penalized would receive their funds once they are in compliance with federal law.

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

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