Getting pulled over for any reason is always stressful. But it can also be frustrating if you are not fully sure what constitutes an alleged traffic violation. For example, you know that if the speed limit is 55 miles per hour, and you drive at 77 miles per hour, the issue is clear. But when it comes to distracted driving, what, exactly counts as being distracted?
Is it just texting? Changing the radio? Reading a billboard? There are so many factors that could take your attention off the road for a minute. Which ones would mean you would get pulled over? And what are the penalties when that happens?
Did you get a traffic ticket in New York for distracted driving?
What is Distracted Driving?
Section 1225-C of New York Traffic and Vehicle Laws states that no person shall operate a motor vehicle on any public highway while using a mobile phone while the vehicle is in motion.
The term “in motion” is often defined broadly to include while you’re behind the wheel with the ignition on and the car in any bear (except Park). As the above definition indicates, it is important to note that a driver is arguably not allowed to use a mobile device while behind the wheel, even if the vehicle is temporarily stopped because of heavy traffic or at a red light. Drivers of vehicles may, however, pull over at the side of the road and park to make a phone call or otherwise use their mobile device.
Any driver who is simply holding a phone while their vehicle is “in motion” will be presumed to be illegally using an electronic device under New York law. This is a rebuttable presumption, meaning that if you are pulled over for that reason, you can show evidence in court that you were not engaged in a call if such was the case (but you have the burden of rebutting the presumption).
In addition to Section 1225-C, the New York DMV cites a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study (NHTSA) that defines distracted driving as:
- Being engaged doing secondary tasks to driving
- Driving while drowsy
- Not paying attention to the roads
- Anything that takes your eyes off the road
Therefore, distracted driving could include any of the scenarios listed above (reading billboards, searching for music) and all kinds of behaviors shift your focus elsewhere — such as turning around because your kids are arguing, eating, applying makeup, or reaching for something on the floor of the car, etc. However, of course, none of those activities are currently illegal in New York.
That being said, that same study concluded that cell phone and electronic device use is the most common form of distraction. Also, avoid a quick glance. The NHTSA study also states that looking away for as little as two seconds doubles the risk of an accident.
Exceptions to Distracted Driving Rules in New York
Drivers on New York roadways are allowed to use their mobile phones for the purpose of calling for emergency help. This applies to 911, an ambulance, fire department, police department, or doctor.
With that said, it is legal to use a cell phone as long as you do so via a hands-free. This may be through the use of a Bluetooth connection or being on the speaker (and the phone is not being held by the driver).
What About Texting and Driving in New York?
In addition to not using a mobile phone to make phone calls while driving, it is illegal in the State of New York to do any of the following:
- Sending and/or reading text messages
- Sending and/or reading emails
- Visiting any webpage, and/or scrolling through social media
- Viewing and/or sending pictures
- Playing video games
You will get pulled over for any of these behaviors and get a ticket for distracted driving.
What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving?
If you are pulled over for distracted driving, the penalties include the following:
- A fine between $50 and $200 for a first violation.
- A fine of $50 and $250 for a second violation, if both offenses occurred within a period of 18 months.
- A fine between $50 and $450 for a third or subsequent violation, if they all happened within a period of 18 months.
In addition, you will have to pay applicable surcharges; and depending on your driving record, you may also have to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee.
Getting cited for distracted driving (whether due to illegal cell phone or electronic device use) means getting 5 points assessed against your driving record. If you get 11 points within 18 months, you may also face a driver’s license suspension.
In the event of causing an accident because of distracted driving, you would also be liable for all damages — including injuries and death. And depending on the circumstances, these could also lead to criminal charges.
A New York Traffic Ticket Attorney Can Help
At Weiss & Associates, PC we provide the best representation you could receive. We offer an initial free consultation, flat fees, and experienced traffic lawyers who will show up on your behalf, so you do not have to waste time in court trying to clean up this mess.