Last month, I wrote a post called “When Does Stopped Mean Moving?” discussing how one traffic court found a violation of New York’s “distracted driver” law for “using” an electronic device even though the motorist was stopped at a light. This post will discuss whether “holding” under VTL 1225-d encompasses those instances when a motorist places a powered-up electronic device on his or her lap.
Under subdivision (2), “using” means “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.
Given the above definition along with the purpose of eliminating distracted driving, I believe that traffic court judges would construe “holding” to include powered-up devices that are placed on a motorist’s laps.
The item must be in the “on” position because otherwise one would not be able to use his or her device.
In regard to the lap placement, it keeps the device within one’s reach and eyeshot, somewhat within one’s control and can clearly be distracting to a driver. These factors likely will lead judges to liberally interpret “holding” to include putting an electronic device on one’s lap.
My advice is to put your device in your pocket, pocketbook or other non-visible area. In this way, there is no argument for a police office to make regarding violating VTL 1225-d.