Texting while driving ban now in effect

Motorists beware! A new law banning the use of portable electronic devices while driving in New York, which now includes texting while driving, is in effect.

“Driver distraction, such as texting and using portable electronic devices, has become a serious hazard to everyone who uses our roadways,” Commissioner David Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles said after the law went into effect on November 1. “It is our hope that this common sense law will go a long way to significantly improve overall highway safety for all of New York’s motorists.”

New York has been consistently taking steps to increase highway safety, and during the last two years the state has had its lowest fatality rate since records were kept beginning in the 1920s. While many people support the new texting ban, some feel that it will not stop the public from doing it.

Licensed driver Rob Weidenbaum,42, of Bayside said, “On an individual basis, if someone were to be stopped and issued a citation then they would stop texting, but as for the public I don’t think they would pay attention to it.”

The use of portable electronic devices, such as hand-held mobile telephones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), while operating a motor vehicle has led to distracted driving, which creates a threat to public safety on roadways.

The new law is designed to enhance highway safety by prohibiting any operator in the state from using any portable hand-held device because it will eliminate some distraction or inattention on the road.

However, the new law excludes the use of an iPod or Global Positioning System (GPS) and the use of a hands-free cellular phone to talk is still legal.

The ban on portable electronic devices is a secondary law, which means that for a person to be ticketed for the offense the driver must also have committed a primary infraction such as speeding, disobeying a traffic signal or other violation. It is punishable with a fine up to $150.

“People shouldn’t talk on the phone or text when they’re driving. That’s how people get killed. Everything should be hands free,” said Little Neck resident Jim Rogan, 69.