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NY Governor Paterson Introduces Bill to Make Texting While Driving a Primary Offense

Source: NY State Office of the Governor Press Release

Posted on 25 Feb 2010

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Governor David A. Paterson has submitted to the Legislature Program Bill No. 222, which would make New York State's law against using a cell phone or texting while driving more effective by raising a violation of the law from a secondary offense to 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," Governor 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, a violation is only subject to secondary enforcement; that is, a motorist cannot be stopped and issued a summons for using a portable electronic device alone. Instead, a police officer can only pull a driver over and issue a ticket if the driver is both using a cell phone or texting and has also committed another traffic violation.

The Governor's Program Bill would change the violation to a primary offense, allowing officers to stop a motorist who is using a portable electronic device without first having to observe another violation of the law.

Distracted driving is a major safety concern. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2008 were due to distracted driving. Text messaging while driving is especially dangerous and prevalent. According to a Nationwide Insurance study, an estimated 20 percent of all drivers, and 66 percent of drivers aged 18 to 24, are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel.

Additionally, a study released recently 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 reaction times of a driver who was text messaging to those of a driver who was intoxicated, and found that the reaction times while text messaging were worse.

Governor Paterson added: "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."