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Motorists that Text – N.Y. New Law

Motorists that Text in N.Y Will Suffer Tougher Penalties

When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, he cracked down on drivers and passengers who failed to wear seat belts. Now his son, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is cracking down on motorists that text while driving.

The younger Cuomo held a press conference Friday where he directed the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to implement tougher penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers effective Saturday, as well as proposing new penalties for motorists that text for young and new drivers.

In addition, the governor directed New York State Police  to increase enforcement of the motorist that text ban during the summer starting this weekend. There will be more checkpoints and troopers patrolling on the roads across the state throughout the summer.

“As father of three teenagers, I know firsthand the importance of instilling safe practices in our young drivers who are developing lifelong habits as they learn to navigate the road,” Cuomo said at the press conference.

“Inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination – one this legislation seeks to deter,” he said. “We are urging young and inexperienced drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, while putting stronger penalties in place for drivers of all ages who violate the law and put others in danger. No parent should have to experience losing a child at the hands of a text message.”

Cuomo has taken a hard line on distracted drivers since he took office. In July 2011, he signed a new law to strengthen enforcement of texting-while-driving violations, which made using a handheld electronic device for activities such as motorist that text a primary traffic offense, giving law enforcement the power to stop motorists solely for engaging in this activity.

Additionally, the penalty for using a handheld device while driving was increased from two to three points. A driver who accumulates 11 points in an 18-month period loses their license.

Since the texting law was passed, there has been a 234 percent increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving in New York State from 2011 to 2012.

Statistics show that texting and using a cellphone while driving is a growing trend, whereas alcohol-related driving has declined, according to the Governor’s Office, which had a truckload of statistics to prove its point.

From 2005 to 2011, there has been roughly a 143 percent increase in cellphone-related crashes in New York State. In that same time period, there has been about an 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes in the Empire State.

In 2011, there were 25,165 fatal and personal injury crashes involving distracted driving in New York, compared to 4,628 caused by alcohol-related driving.

In New York State, the number of tickets issued for texting-while-driving (30,166) approached the number of DWI/DWAI arrests (43,954) in 2012. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, there was a 234 percent increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving. In the same time period, there was a 4 percent decrease in the number of DWI/DWAI arrests.

Some 43 pervent of teenage drivers admit that they regularly text while driving, according to research released at a recent poster session of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s attention from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds which is the equivalent – at 55 miles per hour – of driving the length of an entire football field while blind, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

There are three main types of distraction while driving: visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, or taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off what you are doing.

Under the governor’s direction, the DMV this weekend increased the number of points earned against an individual’s driving record upon conviction for motorists that text and cell-phone related infractions from the current three points to five points — a big jump.

Cuomo is also proposing legislation that would establish tough new penalties for young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving. Under current law, probationary and junior licenses are suspended for 60 days for violations such as speeding, reckless driving, or following too closely behind another vehicle. Such licenses are revoked for six months (for probationary licenses) or 60 days (for junior licenses) if there is another violation within six months of the license being restored.

The governor’s proposed legislation will impose the same penalties on drivers with probationary and junior licenses for texting-while-driving that they now receive for speeding and reckless driving: 60-day suspensions for first convictions and revocations of 60 days (for junior licenses) or 6 months (for probationary licenses) for subsequent convictions within six months of the time a license is restored after suspension.

DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “With the increased use of mobile devices, we have all become more concerned about safety on our highways. I congratulate Governor Cuomo on his continued efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and for putting increased penalties in place for those who engage in the dangerous behavior of texting while driving.”

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “Distracted drivers will not be tolerated in New York State … Our message is clear: Motorists who use a cellphone or electronics device while driving will be ticketed.”

Ben Lieberman, Co-Chair of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, who lost his son in a car crash, attended Friday’s news

“To say smartphone-driving impairs you to the level of a drunk driving is almost cliché nowadays,” Lieberman said.

“Most motorists know that drunk-driving comparison and truly believe the stat,” he said. “You don’t need an academic study to prove that if you take your eyes off the road, you are more likely to crash. Yet the behavior continues and traffic casualties are increasing rather than decreasing. Thank you Gov. Cuomo for treating this epidemic with urgency and common sense. Legislation that will deter this destructive behavior is badly needed and we are grateful for your passion and determination.”


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