Westchester County has enacted Local Law 12, 2008, which makes it illegal to compose, read, or send text messages while operating any type of motor vehicle, including automobiles, trucks, vans, and construction vehicles. The law will take effect on March 10, 2009. This is certainly welcome news to those of us (this writer included) who have had to swerve their car out of the path of a wayward driver who appears to be either texting someone or checking his or her messages or e-mails.
The New York State Assembly has been considering legislation banning drivers from sending or reading text messages after a tragic June, 2007 accident in which five teenage girls were killed in a head on collision with a tractor-trailer in Rochester, New York. The investigation of the accident established that text messages were sent and received from the 17 year old driver's cell phone just seconds before the fatal accident in New York.
Westchester Local Law 12 is entitled "Use of Wireless Handsets to Compose, Read or Send Text Messages While Operating a Motor Vehicle" and states as follows:
No person shall use a wireless handset to compose, read or send text messages while operating a motor vehicle on any public street or public highway within the County of Westchester. Cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA's), and other portable electronic or computing devices capable of transmitting data in the form of a text message are considered "wireless handsets." A violation of the law is punishable by a fine not exceeding $150.00 for each violation. Exempt from the law are law enforcement officers, EMT's, fire safety officials in the course of their duties, and people who are contacting police, EMT's or fire safety officers, or persons using a wireless handset in a vehicle which is stopped or parked, and is removed from the flow of traffic.
If New York joins New Jersey, California and Washington State in enacting a statewide ban on texting while driving, the Westchester law will become null and void.