Blogs & Articles | Steven L. Ginsberg

CELL PHONE AND TEXTING LAWS JUST GOT STRICTER

Posted: May 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized

Tickets for texting while driving and using your cell phone while driving now carry more points in New York

CommuterAlbany has done it again. New York State was one of the first to enact a prohibition against speaking on a cell phone while driving, which was first put into effect in 2001. Since that time, the law has been augmented, clarified and strengthened several times. But more changes are coming our way. In fact, a major change has already taken effect, practically without warning.

Last Friday, on May 31, Governor Cuomo announced that as of that very midnight, June 1, the points assessed by DMV for a violation of either the cell phone or texting laws would increase from 3 to 5.

For those of you not overly familiar with the points system, a certain number of points are imposed for various different moving violations and if a driver reaches 11 points in an 18 month period, he or she faces a license suspension. The original cell phone law carried no points (just a fine), later 2 were points were assessed, and even later the points were increased to 3, making it similar to violations like red light, stop sign, or driving in the left lane. Now, with the 5 points, a cell phone conversation or texting is in the category of such “high end” violations as Reckless Driving and Passing a School Bus.

Just to put this in perspective, until July 2011, there were no points on Cell phone violations, and I would sometimes get clients who had compiled numerous such tickets. While their insurance companies did not like it at all, they were in no danger of a DMV suspension, Now, only a short time later, even 2 such violations can leave a driver with 10 points, not to mention the enhanced Driver Assessments and other penalties associated with these convictions.

And just to make things even more interesting if you have a young driver in the family (or are one yourself), the Governor has introduced legislation that would impose a mandatory 60 day suspension for even one cell phone or texting conviction during the initial probationary period, or for a holder of a DJ “Junior” license. The second such violation would result in a mandatory 6 month suspension. That is sure to get the attention of teenage drivers (or so the powers in Albany would like to believe).

Many people have asked me about exceptions to the cell phone law. There are some, but be careful about using them. The law allows the driver to use a hands-free device, for example, but my experience is that if you have the phone on speaker and are holding the phone anyhow, the cops will give a ticket with a “tell it to the judge” mentality. Secondly, there is an exception for emergency calls (e.g. fire, ambulance, police, etc.), but once again, the police will usually not believe that you had an emergency and will give you a ticket anyhow, and leave it up to you to prove to the judge that your call was legally justified.

Before I close, I should state the obvious: Distracted driving, besides being illegal, is very dangerous. In recent years, there have been over 25,000 crashes yearly in New York State alone that have been traced to distracted driving, as opposed to less than 5,000 annual crashes involving alcohol use. And texting, web-browsing or other non-phone uses can be just as dangerous – and deadly – as cell phones. We see it on the road all the time. Cars that are not staying in their lanes, not stopping early enough for red lights, etc. are very often being driven by people that are “just checking something quickly”.

I am a smartphone user myself, so I understand the temptation. But the risks are so enormous, that they far outweigh the small benefits in making that call, checking the text or other illegal use of electronics while driving. If there really is an urgency, there is no shame in pulling off the road briefly in order to see what the mini-screen is trying to say.

Truthfully, the tough penalties and fines are only a small part of why we should stay off the electronics while driving. The real reason is to keep us, our families, and the motoring (and pedestrian) public safe.

Steven L. Ginsberg, Esq. has a law practice in Rockland County, concentrating in Vehicle & Traffic matters. He can be reached at info@ginsberglegal.net or by calling 845.547-2500.  His website is: www.ny-trafficticketlawyer.com




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