New York To Fix Text Messaging And Driving Law Loophole

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Last October, I was the first to report in this blog that New York’s new traffic law prohibiting texting and driving had “a major loophole“.  Specifically, I explained that the law as passed meant that a motorist must commit a second, separate traffic offense in order to be charged and found guilty of illegally texting and driving (or using any other electronic device).

My critique was that the new law allowed motorists to legally text and drive (despite the obvious dangers) as long as they did not otherwise break the traffic laws, and I quipped that “[s]omeone was asleep at the wheel when they approved this statute (pun intended).”

As a New York traffic lawyer whose law firm fights 1,000s of traffic tickets every year, it was easy for me to confirm the ineffectiveness of the original law.  Since the law went into effect on November 1, 2009, we haven’t seen one ticket issued for violating this law.  That includes not only our clients but also prospective clients inquiring about whether they should fight a New York traffic ticket.

Now, four months later, Governor David Paterson is seeking to correct the misguided original efforts of Albany’s dysfunctional Legislature by introducing a bill to remove the loophole. The goal is to make the law effective by allowing police officers to issue traffic tickets for using a portable electronic device without first having to observe another violation of the traffic laws.  Surprisingly, the new bill does not seek to raise the $150 fine for committing such an offense.

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