State cracks down on texting and driving

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that efforts by state and local police to crack down on texting and driving resulted in an 840% increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York state since 2011.

While the number of cell phone tickets has decreased each year since 2011, texting tickets issued during the same period have increased substantially with the proliferation of smartphones.

The announcement was made as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Operation Hang Up, a high-visibility distracted driving crackdown coordinated by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) and carried out by the New York State Police and local law enforcement from April 8 to 13.

“There is zero tolerance for distracted driving, and state police will be out in force to crack down on this dangerous behavior,” Cuomo said. “By keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, we can help prevent needless tragedies and make this a safer New York.”

In the past, Cuomo has made reducing texting while driving a high priority. In 2011, he directed the DMV to implement regulations increasing the number of points for a texting-while-driving infraction from two points to three points, and from three points to five points in 2015. He also signed a law substantially increasing penalties for probationary and junior drivers convicted of texting while driving. Under the law, probationary and junior drivers could face a 120-day suspension for a first offense, and could lose their license for one year if a second offense was committed within six months. Motorists caught texting and driving face up to a $450 fine and five points on their license.

A complete list of distracted driving (both cell phone and texting) tickets issued by state and local law enforcement in 2014 and 2015 by county can be found here.

“No text message is worth a life. Not only are motorists who text or use their cell phones while driving putting themselves at risk, they are endangering everyone on the roads. It is critical for drivers to put their phones down each time they are behind the wheel. Working together, we can prevent tragedies on our roadways by refusing to let our phones distract us while driving,” GTSC acting Chair and DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan said.

New York state prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices. Illegal activity :

  • Holding a portable electronic device.
  • Talking on a handheld mobile telephone.
  • Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving, or retrieving electronic data such as email, text messages, or websites.
  • Viewing, taking, or transmitting images.
  • Playing games.

Exceptions to the laws include:

  • When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand.
  • Using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface.
  • Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
  • When the purpose of the phone call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician’s office, or an ambulance corps.
  • When operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.

For more information about GTSC, visit safeny.ny.gov/.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

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