Governor Paterson has introduced a bill which would make New York State’s law against using a cell phone or texting while driving a primary offense.
“This bill will take the handcuffs off our law enforcement officers and make our highways safer by allowing officers to observe a violation and immediately issue a summons,” Paterson said. “There is nothing more important than the safety of all New Yorkers, and by increasing the offense level of the current law, law enforcement officers will be better able to protect them and save lives.”
Under the current law, drivers cannot be stopped and issued a summons for using a cell phone alone; police officers can only pull a driver over and issue a ticket if the driver is both using a cell phone or texting and has committed another traffic violation. The new bill would upgrade the violation to a primary offense from a secondary one, allowing officers to pull over someone who is using a cell phone without first having to observe another law violation.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2008 were the result of distracted driving. Another study conducted by Nationwide Insurance found that about 20 percent of all drivers, and 66 percent of those aged 18 to 24, are sending or receiving text messages behind the wheel.
“Texting while driving is a serious distraction that can lead to a very dangerous situation, causing accidents and injuries,” said Assemblymember Audrey I. Pheffer. “It is important we enact legislation that will give those protecting our roadways the ability to stop drivers who are creating hazardous conditions for themselves and motorists.”
In addition, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were text messaging were 23 times more at risk of a crash or near crash. Another study compared the reaction times of a driver who was text messaging to that of an intoxicated driver, and discovered that the reaction times while text messaging were more severe.
“As these studies make clear, any kind of distraction while driving is dangerous, and texting while driving is one of the most dangerous distractions possible, which is why it is so important to crack down on this offense for the safety and well being of everyone traveling on New York’s roads,” said Paterson.