ALBANY, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo conducted a ceremonial bill signing which made texting while driving a primary offense in New York State which means that a driver can be stopped solely for the offense.
While it has been against the law to text or use an electronic device while driving in New York for two years, until this point it was only a “secondary” offense, meaning police could only pull you over and ticket you only if you were committing some other offense like speeding.
Now, not only will penalties be make more severe, but police can pull someone over solely upon their seeing a motorist using a hand held electronic device.
“If a trooper visually observes somebody engaging in some type of behavior with a Blackberry, or an I-phone, they will make that stop,” said New York State Police Lt. Kevin Barnas. “Any kind of distracted driving is a danger.”
New York was one of only four states that had a texting-while-driving ban that didn’t make it a primary offense. Twenty-seven other states had it as a primary infraction.
Records obtained by Gannett from the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that nearly 332,000 tickets were issued statewide for cellphone use while driving in 2010, compared to just 3,200 for texting while driving – the first full year the law was in place.
Following the bill signing, Gov. Cuomo was careful to note to reporters that the law applies not only to texting, but to using a hand held device–while driving– for any other purpose, such as surfing the web or checking e-mail.
And …even if you just have one in your hand while driving, the law is written in such a way, that you are presumed to be “using” it, and therefore subject to being stopped.
“It’s a rebuttable presumption,” said Cuomo, meaning that if there’s to be an argument over whether a device was actually being used, it would be fleshed out in court before a judge.
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New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1225-d. Use of portable electronic devices.
1. Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion.
2. For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(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.
3. Subdivision one of this section shall not apply to (a) the use of a portable electronic device for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: an emergency response operator; a hospital; a physician’s office or health clinic; an ambulance company or corps; a fire department, district or company; or a police department, (b) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties: a police officer or peace officer; a member of a fire department, district or company; or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in section one hundred one of this chapter.
4. A person who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while operating a motor vehicle is presumed to be using such device. The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not using the device within the meaning of this section.
5. The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a portable electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law.
6. A violation of this section shall be a traffic infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred fifty dollars.