Updates Made to Distracted Driving Laws in NY

The New York State Police issued 17,447 tickets from April 10th through April 15th as part of “Operation Hang Up” – a new initiative aimed at targeting distracted drivers. Of the more than 17,000 tickets issued, 2,752 were for using a cell phone or texting while driving, leading authorities to classify the initiative as a success.

Distracted Driving New Safety Focus for NY Traffic Safety Committee

The New York Traffic Safety Committee sponsored the operation following April’s designation as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,100 fatalities and 424,000 injuries in 2013 were attributable to instances involving a distracted driver. Authorities say that the crackdowns will help remind the public that distracted driving is a serious problem.

Know the Rules

New York’s current distracted driving laws prohibit drivers from holding a portable electronic device and doing any of the following:

  • Talking on a handheld mobile telephone
  • 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

Violations of this law are punishable by up to a $200 fine for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense, and a $450 fine for a third offense. Probationary and junior drivers may also receive a 120-day suspension of their license for a first offense, and a 1-year loss of license for a second offense committed within 6 months.

The law defines a “portable electronic device” as “any hand-held mobile telephone...a 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.”

The law does, however, provide an exception for the use of hands-free devices and the use of such devices in an emergency situation. The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee nevertheless urges that such devices only be used with the utmost caution where the exceptions apply.

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