ALBANY, NY — In New York State it is illegal to use a cell phone or send a text or an email while driving, and if a driver does use a cell phone, he or she may be fined. The amount of the fine was increased as of July 26.
For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and maximum is now $150. For a second offense committed within 18 months, the minimum is $50 and the maximum is $200. For a third or subsequent offense, the minimum is $50 and the maximum is $400.
The increases were approved by lawmakers as part of the budget process, and are part of Governor Cuomo’s campaign against distracted driving.
“Distracted driving has become a frightening epidemic on our roadways, and fines are an important tool to punish and prevent this reckless behavior,” Governor Cuomo said. “Combined with stronger penalties on your license and increased enforcement, these increased fines will send a tough message to all drivers that distracted driving is a serious problem with serious consequences. Using a multi-pronged approach to combat this dangerous habit will make drivers think twice before using their cell phones behind the wheel. As New York’s law enforcement patrols our highways and roads this summer, we are warning drivers: don’t text-and-drive or you will pay for it.”
This summer, at the governor’s direction, the New York State Police are undertaking a major crackdown on distracted driving. The up to $1 million effort consists of significantly increased enforcement and patrols, particularly through undercover operations using unmarked state police sport utility vehicles to catch drivers who are violating the law.
In a New York Times blog on July 24, Ray LaHood, the former secretary of the U. S. Department of Transportation, compared cell phones to alcohol. “The problem in America is our cell phones are, in a sense, like alcohol. We’re hooked on them and can’t put them down when behind the wheel of the car, when we’re driving,” Mr. LaHood said. “We’re hooked on these devices and can’t put them down, anyplace, anytime, anywhere.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as of December 2012, Americans were sending 171.3 billion text messages every month, and at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, and an additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes
According to information posted on www.distraction.gov , laws regarding distracted driving vary widely from state to state. Pennsylvania, for instance, has a ban on texting for all drivers, but there is no ban on the use of cell phones.
Mississippi has a ban on the use of cell phones and texting for bus drivers, and texting for novice drivers, but there are no bans on either for most drivers, and there is a state law that prohibits municipalities from enacting distracted driving bans.
Only two states, Montana and South Dakota, have no laws on the books regarding distracted driving.