Effective this past Monday, November 4, 2013, New York’s Vehicle & Traffic Law has been amended to toughen the penalties on truck drivers and other commercial drivers who use their cell phones while driving. These license holders will no longer be permitted to use a mobile device to make a call, text, or send an email, even if the driver is temporarily stopped in traffic, at a stop sign, or traffic light, of for any other reason. The new texting law applies to intrastate travel in the State of New York. It states that “using” a mobile device is defined as when a person “presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone.”
The law is different for non-commercial drivers, who can only be flagged for a violation of the cell phone and texting laws if their vehicle is in motion.
The penalties for a violation of the modified section of the Vehicle & Traffic law are substantial, including a mandatory suspension of the commercial driver’s license!
In July of this year, Governor Cuomo signed into law an increase in the points imposed for texting while driving infractions from 3 points to 5 points, which is almost half of the 11 points on a license resulting in a suspension. The July amendment also added texting while driving to list of violations which can result in a 60 day suspension for probationary and junior licenses.
In 2011, texting while driving was made a primary violation by the New York State legislature, (meaning that a police officer could issue a ticket for a texting infraction without another moving violation such as speeding or following too closely). As a result of that change, there was a huge increase in texting while driving tickets around New York State, from 30,000 in 2012 to approximately 43,000 thus far in 2013. The 43,000 issued this year include 24,000 in the City of New York and 19,000 in the remainder of New York State.
In Westchester County, there were 975 texting tickets issued in 2012 and 1,570 to date in 2013. Other counties such as Dutchess have almost doubled texting while driving tickets this year, going from 419 last year to 726 at present in 2013.