For almost two decades, New York State has led the charge for putting an end to distracted driving. In 2001, it became the first state to ban cellphone use behind the wheel, and in 2011, revisions to the statute added texting and driving as a primary offense. 

When tempted to send a quick text or check email while cruising down the highway, drivers should reconsider. Should they find themselves in an accident or stopped by law enforcement, they can face stiff consequences for distracted driving. Drivers should educate themselves on the way New York handles texting and driving to know what to expect. 

The stats 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 3,100 fatal car accidents in 2017 were attributable to distracted driving. According to recent data, the statistics for distracted driving incidents are falling in New York. This provides hope to law enforcement officials that their efforts to crack down on people breaking the law by holding a cellphone while driving are working. 

The offense  

Distracted driving laws have undergone a few evolutionary changes as technology has. What started as a ban on making telephone calls while driving had to change to include texting as that technology became a problem for drivers. The law enables the police to stop a driver doing any of the following activities with an electronic device in hand: 

  • Reading, typing or sending emails, texts or viewing webpages 
  • Taking, viewing or sending pictures 
  • Playing games online or via app 
  • Making a phone call (unless the call is hands-free) 

The consequences  

If a police officer observes a driver doing any of the above, he or she may receive a $200 fine the first time it happens. The driver’s license may also get hit with up to five points. Subsequent offenses increase in penalties and points, resulting in possible license suspension. 

Distracted driving is just as dangerous as driving while drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A driver who gets in a crash while using a cellphone before the collision may be liable.