Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s focus on the eliminating the dangers of distracted driving, New York State has enacted some of the toughest laws to combat this epidemic. Through the years, we have seen illegally using a cell phone (VTL 1255-c) and electronic device (VTL 1225-d) go from 0 points to 5 points. Plus, these laws are widely and routinely enforced throughout the state and hopefully are shaping safer driving habits.
Traffic tickets issued for illegally using a cell phone allege that the police officer saw you engaged in a call at the time he observed you driving without using a hands-fee device. In contrast, tickets for illegally using an electronic device allege that you were “using” that device while driving “in motion”. You can violate this law by simply holding the device and looking at the screen. Of course, swiping, pushing and texting are all also prohibited by VTL 1225-d.
Citing statistics which shows that 94% of fatal crashes are the result of driver error, the Governor will advance legislation this year to tighten up these laws even further. Specifically, among other things, the proposal calls for eliminating the “in motion” language from VTL 1225-d. The effect of such a change would mean that drivers cannot legally “use” electronic devices while stopped at a red light or in traffic. As a practical matter, we often see motorist written up for using devices while stopped anyway but this change will make it even harder for motorists to defend themselves from such tickets.
The Governor also proposes to prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using an electronic device. I suspect that this means that young drivers would not be able to use a cell phone while driving (even with a hands-free device) and that there will be enhanced penalties for such drivers.
I expect these measures to be approved and effective by the summer. Of course, I will post another article when they are enacted.