New York Governor Wants Tougher Penalty for Texting Drivers

June 13, 2011

Drivers who text behind the wheel in New York now run little risk of being pulled over by the police, but that would change under a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor said Friday that he plans to introduce a bill that would make distracted driving a primary offense, which would allow officers to pull over motorists seen typing on their phones or other handheld devices while operating a vehicle.

Right now, the violation is considered a secondary offense in New York, meaning a driver would have to be doing something else wrong for an officer to make a traffic stop.

Officers around the state have still managed to write some tickets, but the approximately 3,200 violations issued statewide last year for texting behind the wheel are just a fraction of the more than 331,000 issued for talking on a cell phone while driving.

“Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We need to impose a true deterrent to stop people from driving while using an electronic device and to keep our roads and citizens safe.”

The fine would stay the same, at up to $150, but offenders would also get three points added to their driver’s history record, rather than two. That would raise the seriousness of the violation to the equivalent of running a stop sign, and could lead to higher insurance payments for drivers.

Federal authorities have also encourages states to address the problem. New York is now one of only a handful of states that don’t make texting while driving a primary offense.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that Cuomo’s proposal would “help save lives and put a stop to dangerous distracted driving behavior on New York roads.”

Typing on dashboard-mounted GPS units would still be allowed under the law.

Cuomo’s predecessor, David Paterson, made a similar proposal last year, but the legislature took no action.

Topics New York Personal Auto

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