June 10, 2011
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo to Introduce New Legislation Imposing Unprecedented Penalties on Drivers Caught Driving While Using a Portable Electronic Device

TOP Governor Cuomo to Introduce New Legislation...

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will introduce new legislation that will crack down on drivers caught using a portable electronic device including blackberrys, iPhones, i-pads, laptop computers, gaming devices and any other portable device, or talking on a cell phone without a hands free device, while driving. The bill would impose unprecedented penalties drivers caught using such a device by adding three points on a driver's license in order to curb the dramatic rise of this dangerous activity. Governor Cuomo's legislation would also make driving while using any portable electronic device a primary, rather than just a secondary offense, meaning that drivers can now be stopped solely if they are found to be using such a device while driving.

"Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road," Governor Cuomo said. "Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians. Current warnings, educational programs, and driving laws aren't working. We need to impose a true deterrent to stop people from driving while using an electronic device and to keep our roads and citizens safe."

Current law makes driving while using a portable electronic device only a secondary offense, which means in order for a person to be ticketed for the offense, the driver must have committed a primary enforcement offense such as speeding, disobeying a traffic signal or other violation. The penalty for a violation of this law is a fine of up to $150.

In addition to increasing the penalty from two to three points, the legislation would also require that distracted driving be included as part of the defensive driving curriculum. Governor Cuomo is working with both houses of the legislature, which have introduced their own legislation cracking down on texting while driving, to see comprehensive legislation passed by the end of this legislative session.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 16% of fatal accidents in 2009 were due to distracted driving and 20% of people injured during a crash were involved in a crash where distracted driving was reported. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a crash or near crash, while another study compared reaction times when a driver was texting to when a driver was intoxicated, and found that the reaction time while texting was worse

A National Insurance study estimated 20% of all drivers, and 66% of drivers aged 18 to 24, are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel, leaving our young drivers most vulnerable. Several fatal accidents in this state have highlighted this fact including the 2007 accident in which 7 teens were killed in suburban Rochester.