Distracted Driving In NYC: Why You Should Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Distracted driving is dangerous

Summary & Quick Facts

  • Driving while distracted is a growing public health issue in the country.
  • Distracted driving means driving while not fully paying attention to the road.
  • Beyond using your cell phone, there are a number of different ways you can be distracted behind the wheel.
  • The state treats distracted driving as a moving violation.
  • If you are caught in NYC driving distracted you face may have  5 points added to your license and face fines.

Keep Your Eyes On The Road…

As technology becomes more involved in our lives, especially in cars, distracted driving is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest health concerns. How many times have you seen someone texting, speaking on the phone or even eating while driving? While many of us think we can multitask while driving, it’s simply not the case.  More and more drivers are getting into distracted driving accidents. Statistics nation-wide reflect the steady increase in distracted-related car crashes each year. In fact, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that traffic accidents involving a distracted driver kill 9 people every day in the United States. This article will cover what the rules and regulations behind distracted driving laws and the penalties that come with them.


What Is Distracted Driving?

When most people think of distracted driving, many think of texting or talking on the phone while driving. However, distracted driving can go far beyond these typical distractions. In reality, distracted driving simply means driving while not fully paying attention to the road. A number of different activities and everyday items can distract you.  For example, reaching for your phone to check GPS or even changing the music can take your eyes off the road. It doesn’t end there! Grooming, putting on make-up and even eating and drinking can cause serious accidents. Even something as innocuous as talking to a passenger can be a distraction. Simply put, you are distracted anytime your mind and/or eyes wander off driving safely on the road.


NY Distracted Driving Laws

In 2009, New York state first classified the texting while driving law as a secondary offense. This means a driver only could be cited for texting if they were pulled over for another reason. Officers could not pull over drivers for texting itself. However, ever since 2011, the Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225(d) was amended to make texting and driving a primary defense.  The law defines the following terms as:

(a) “Portable electronic device” shall mean any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, 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.

(b) “Using” shall mean holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.

This means that an officer can pull over a driver if they observe a driver using an electronic device while driving.

Exceptions To The Law

Although distracted driving is strictly regulated, the law does give some allowances to drivers:

  • When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone.
  • Using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface.
  • Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
  • When making a phone call to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician’s office, or an ambulance corps.
  • When operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.


Penalties For Distracted Driving

The state treats distracted driving as a moving violation. The current New York State law against distracted driving includes some serious penalties for drivers. If you are caught being distracted behind the wheel, you will have 5 points added to your license and a fine depending on how many times you have received a violation in the past.

For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum is $200. A second offense in 18 months increases the maximum fine to $250. A third offense in 18 months results in a maximum fine of $450. Probationary and junior drivers should be extra careful when it comes to distracted driving. These drivers face a 120-day suspension of their license in addition to fines for a first offense. Do it a second time within six months of your first offense and you will face a one-year revocation of your permit or license.


Stepped Up Enforcement  Against Distracted Driving

Ever since the kick off of NYC’s Vision Zero initiatives, drivers across the city have experienced a surge in the enforcement of traffic violations of all kinds. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of tickets written for texting while driving increased an astonishing 840%. By May 2017, the number of tickets for texting increased another 49% from the previous year–from 11,736 to 17,508. With such significant increases, it’s no surprise that questions of aggressive enforcement arise. At the same time, its important for drivers to dedicate their complete attention to the road. It’s not only safe but it will also help you stay on the right side of the law as the city increases enforcement. 

This past fall, NYC Mayor de Blasio announced a plan to increase the city’s Enforcement Task Force from 40 to 80 staff members. The city also increased the number of uniformed police officers dedicated to traffic enforcement by 110. While the city announced this in conjunction with a different Vision Zero initiative, these officers will also be enforcing all traffic laws, including the texting while driving or using an electronic device. With the steep increase in ticketing in just one year, more drivers than ever across the city will face citations.

The state is also testing technology that will allow police to identify drivers who are texting and driving. “Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel — placing themselves and others at substantial risk.” Governor Cuomo said. The state will review the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology.  to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications.


Distractions Are Just Not Worth it…

At the end of the day, you can easily be distracted while driving. Sure, it’s tempting to try to stay in touch with folks by texting while driving. Or you even might need to take a quick look at your GPS to get where you’re going. Nevertheless, those seemingly quick actions can cause you to injure,  kill someone else or cost you your life. Always ask yourself: Is the text message you’re about to send worth an accident? If you must make a call, send a text message, eat some food, or whatever you need to do, just pull over to the side of the road first. Don’t let a distraction turn deadly.

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