Note: The texting an driving law was changed on July 12, 2011. For information on the new law, go to “Texting And Driving In New York (Finally) Made Illegal“.
On October 28, 2009, I was the first to write that New York’s new law prohibiting text messaging and driving had a major loophole. I explained that Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225-D (which became effective on November 1, 2009) had a loophole so big that it will allow many to continue to text and drive, and others to possibly beat such a traffic ticket issued for this offense.
Specifically, I explained that a summons for violating New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1225-D can only be issued if there is reasonable cause to believe the operator of the motor vehicle also committed a separate violation of the law. VTL 1225-D(6). The above means that you must commit a second, separate traffic offense in order to be charged with illegally texting and driving. So if an officer sees you text messaging and driving, he CANNOT charge you with a violation of Section 1225-D unless he also observes you committing another moving violation at the same time. Essentially, this allows motorists to legally text and drive (despite the new law) as long as they do not otherwise break the law.
Another loophole exists for those charged with violating Section 1225-D as well as some other traffic offense. If you can beat the other traffic violation, arguably the Section 1225-D ticket should also be dismissed as, with the dismissal of the other charge, there is no longer the separate violation of law predicate. It is like buy one, get one free (or more accurately beat one, beat one free).
Of course, this law makes no sense and essentially allows drivers to continue to drive using these devices despite the obvious and extreme danger in which it places themselves and others.
In February of last year, I wrote that the New York legislature has written a bill which would fix the this loophole in a post entitled “New York To Fix Text Messaging And Driving Law Loophole“. Guess what? To date, the dysfunctional New York legislature has yet to pass it.
Given the clearly known dangers of this unsafe behavior it is utterly remarkable that our politicians in Albany cannot get this bill passed. How many injuries and deaths will it take until they act? I hope this is addressed immediately.
For years Michigan had a law requiring drivers to wear seat belts, but in order to enforce this law there had to be a primary violation for which the officer could stop the vehicle. Simply observing a driver not wearing a seat belt could not be the basis for the stop. I agree with you – if you are going to earmark the action as unsafe then give law enforcement the necessary tools to take action.
We are obviously on the same page with this issue.