Motorists who continue to text while driving, beware! There has been a major increase in tickets for texting while driving in 2011, in line with tougher penalties for this traffic infraction that went into effect in July of this year. Most will recall that when the texting while driving ban first went into effect in 2009, it was a secondary infraction, meaning that a police officer could only issue a ticket if he observed the driver committing another violation of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, such as speeding or disregarding a traffic control device. In July of 2011, the texting law was strengthened in a big way as follows:
1. The infraction became a primary violation, so that a police officer can issue the ticket solely based on observations of the driver composing, transmitting, accessing, saving, browsing, retrieving, sending or reading a text;
2. The infraction now results in 3 points assessed to the driver’s license, which is the equivalent amount of points for a speeding ticket (1-10 miles over the speed limit), unsafe lane change, or passing through a stop sign, for example, and;
3. There is a $150.00 fine for the infraction.
In signing the new legislation on July 12, 2011, Governor Cuomo was quoted as saying: “It’s plain and simple…distracted driving leads to tragedies that have affected families all across New York. This new law will help ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.” Presently, 34 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. 31 states and the District of Columbia make the ban a primary infraction and 3 states continue to make the testing ban secondary, meaning that the driver would have to be pulled over for another infraction in addition to texting while driving.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV) statistics tell the tale: In 2011, texting tickets are up 65% from 100 in 2010 to 165 to date in 2011; In Rockland County, there were 21 tickets in all of 2010, and 71 in 2011; and in Putnam County, tickets have increased 77% from 13 in 2010 to 23 in 2011. Across New York State, there were 3,248 tickets issued for texting while driving in 2010 and 4,634 in 2011 to date. Outside of the 5 counties of New York City, texting tickets increased from 1,617 in 2010 to 2,777 in 2011.
The DMV reports that driver distraction is involved in one out of 5 automobile accidents. In 2009, almost 5,500 people were killed in accidents that were attributable to inattentive or distracted motorists and more than 440,000 were injured. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found in 2009 that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be involved in an automobile crash than those who did not text.
If you or a loved one is charged with texting while driving, a criminal offense, or another traffic infraction, contact the Westchester County Traffic Ticket Lawyers online or toll free at (914) 428-7386 for a free initial consultation to discuss your case, legal rights, and options in detail.