Yes, you read that correctly. Governor Cuomo has announced that the number of texting tickets issued in New York state has increased by 840% since 2011. This rise is attributed to a crackdown on drivers by both state police and local law enforcement.
The number of offences resulting in what the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee call “distracted driving tickets” has actually reduced over this period, according to preliminary figures released on April 8, 2016. However, the mix of tickets has changed dramatically. Tickets for cell phone use were 248,540 in 2011 and have seen a steady decline until 2015, when the number issued was 132,028. On the other hand, texting tickets have jumped from 9,015 in 2011 to 84,720 in 2015.
Looking at the figures for individual counties shows wide variations in the numbers of tickets issued. Some of this can be explained by the population of the counties outside of New York City. For example, tiny Hamilton County only issued 9 cell phone and 6 texting tickets in 2015, compared to Erie county’s 4,923 cell phone and 2,261 texting tickets. Within New York City itself, Kings produced the largest number of tickets in 2015, with 22,899 cell and 15,759 texting tickets being issued.
Under Governor Cuomo, texting while driving has become a high-priority item for law enforcement. Accordingly, the number of points for texting while driving has increased from two in 2010 to three in 2011, and then to five points in June of 2013. This is in addition to fines ranging from $50 up to $400 per offense.
For probationary and junior drivers, the penalties are even more severe. These drivers could face a suspension for up to 120 days for a first offense. If they are convicted of a second offense within six months, they could lose their license for up to a year.
To enforce these stringent measures, the Governor has publicly stated that “there is zero tolerance for distracted driving, and state police will be out in force to crack down on this dangerous behavior.”
New York State’s mobile phone law prohibits drivers from using portable electronic devices under most circumstances. This makes illegal such activities as talking on a handheld cell phone and writing or reading text messages and emails while driving. In addition, taking, viewing, or transmitting pictures, as well checking web pages and playing games, is illegal for the driver of a vehicle.
There are some exceptions to the law, such as when the driver is using a hands-free mobile device, so long as they are able to operate it without using either hand. Drivers are also allowed to use a handheld or GPS device, as long as it is attached to the vehicle. In addition, cell phones can be used to communicate an emergency to the police or fire department or to contact a hospital or physician’s office in an emergency.
New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s Executive Deputy Commissioner, Terri Egan, who is also the acting chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee said, “No text message is worth a life. Not only are motorists, who text or use their cell phones while driving, putting themselves at risk, they are endangering everyone on the roads. It is critical for drivers to put their phones down each time they are behind the wheel. Working together, we can prevent tragedies on our roadways by refusing to let our phones distract us while driving.”
If you get a texting or distracted driving ticket, Weiss & Associates, PC can help. Contact us today to learn more.