Anyone found guilty of violating the new law prohibiting texting and driving will be assessed 3 points and a fine of up to $150. I recently had a chance to review the portable electronic device law and, overall, I am concerned about a floodgate of wrongly-issued tickets being handed out.
First off, keep in mind that, under VTL 1225-d, the mere holding of a device while driving gives rise to a presumption of use. Therefore, if a police officer sees you just holding or fidgeting with an electronic while you are behind the wheel, he can issue you a ticket and YOU will be responsible for proving that you were not using it (as opposed to the other way around).
Given this presumption of guilt, I envision many motorists who are holding an iPhone or Adroid being issued a ticket even though they may be legally using it to make or receive a telephone call. The word “use” in the new law intentionally omits talking or listening to phone calls (VTL 1225-c governs driving and using an electronic device as a phone, and authorizes using a “hands-free” mobile phone).
Therefore, I expect a rash of tickets being issued by officers who will not be bothered ascertaining what use the motorist was making for his or her device. In fact, I was just emailed yesterday by a motorist who was issued a VTL 1225-d ticket for texting. However, he merely pushed the speaker button on his cell phone to hear a call while it was legally sitting on his console.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of tickets being issued under the old texting and driving law. That law contained a major loophole (first identified by me in October 2009) which made it difficult to enforce. The new law fixes this issue and, in my opinion, will lead to rash of tickets.
GPS devices present an interesting question. While some newspapers have written that GPS devices are omitted from the new law, they DO come within the reach of VTL 1225-d as a “handheld device with mobile data access” or as a “portable computing device”. If it is built into your vehicle or affixed to the surface of your vehicle, however, it is not a “handheld” or “portable” device and exempt from this law.
Another issue is whether motorists can “check” their device while stopped at a red light. The new law prohibits using your electronic device while the car is “in motion”. I expect that most courts will interpret “in motion” to mean when the motorist is behind the wheel with the car in “Drive”. Therefore, stopping at a light is “in motion”. I highly recommend pulling over to a legal parking spot if you need to text or otherwise use an electronic device.
Finally, I expect motorist using legal mp3 devices to also be wrongly ticketed. Under VTL 12225-d(2)(a), the term “Portable electronic device” is defined as “any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.” It does NOT mention mp3 players and, therefore, does not prohibit their use (unless of course it also has computing, gaming or texting capacity like an iTouch device). Of course, don’t be surprised if zealous police officers write you up for using an mp3 especially while the law is still new and police officers have not been fully educated.
Below is the text for the revised law in New York prohibiting texting and driving.
§1225-d. Use of portable electronic devices.
1. Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion.
2. For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(a) “Portable electronic device” shall mean any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.
(b) “Using” shall mean holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.
3. Subdivision one of this section shall not apply to (a) the use of a portable electronic device for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: an emergency response operator; a hospital; a physician’s office or health clinic; an ambulance company or corps; a fire department, district or company; or a police department, (b) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties: a police officer or peace officer; a member of a fire department, district or company; or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in section one hundred one of this chapter.
4. A person who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while operating a motor vehicle is presumed to be using such device. The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not using the device within the meaning of this section.
5. The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a portable electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law.
6. A violation of this section shall be a traffic infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred fifty dollars.