During the past several years, there has been an explosion in the use of cellular technology, primarily in the form of the smart phone. While the technology has many benefits for society, there are negative impacts as well. Traffic safety has been negatively impacted as a result of the distraction created by the use of this relatively new technology. Even though there are many forms of distractions in motor vehicles, the use of cellular technology in the motor vehicle by operators is recognized as being particularly problematic.
In New York State, the "Driver Inattention/Distraction" category is not the lead cause for fatalities, but it is by far, the leading category in both property damage and personal injury crashes. In addition, the number of "Driver Inattention/Distraction" related crashes have been steadily increasing, going from 35,546 crashes in 2006 to 49,833 in 2010.
New York State has been on the forefront of the distracted driving issue since enacting the nation's first statewide hand held phone law, which took effect in November 2001. Recognizing the potential threat posed by texting and other messaging technologies, a secondary enforcement texting law was enacted in 2009, and then changed to a primary offense in 2011. Despite the efforts of law enforcement and the recent Commissioners Regulation adding three points to each cell phone and electronic device usage while driving, use of mobile electronics devices continues to proliferate.
The New York State Police has taken a proactive approach to reducing distracted driving through a combined enforcement and education effort in concert with other agencies. Enforcement initiatives such as "Operation Hang-Up" as well as educational awareness campaigns conducted at key events, such as the State Fair and county fairs throughout the state have helped raise public awareness.
New York prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices.
Illegal activity includes holding an electronic device and:
- Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving, or retrieving electronic data such as e-mail, text messages, or webpages
- Viewing, taking, or transmitting images
- Playing games
The penalty for a violation of this law shall be a fine of up to $150 and 3 driver penalty points. It is a primary law, which means an officer may stop you if you are observed using a hand held device. The law does not penalize drivers using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface or using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle, or if drivers are using a handheld device to report an emergency to the authorities. The law defines the following terms as:
- "Portable electronic device" shall mean any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.
- "Using" shall mean 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.
New Yorks Cellular Phone Law
Use of a hand-held cellular telephone to engage in a call while driving is prohibited in New York State, pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225c. This law became effective December 1, 2001 violators may be issued a ticket for a traffic infraction, resulting in a fine of up to $150.
- When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand.
- When the purpose of the phone call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician's office, or an ambulance corps.
- When operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.
Please remember that 911 is for emergencies only.
Dialing 911 is a free call for cellular subscribers. Police and EMS officials say that in many cases response times have been cut, criminals have been apprehended and lives have been saved due to calls from cellular phone users.
For more information, visit www.safeny.ny.gov