With the frenetic pace of the holidays quickly approaching, we will all undoubtedly feel that there are simply not enough hours in the day. However, it's important to keep in mind that multitasking and driving simply don't mix. In response to the serious problem of Distracted Driving, New York has made recent changes to the Vehicle and Traffic Law. New York prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices while their vehicles are in motion.
Illegal activity includes holding a portable electronic device and:
- Talking on a handheld mobile telephone
- Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving electronic data such as e-mail, text messages or webpages
- Viewing, taking or transmitting images
- Playing games.
New York State is serious about reducing Distracted Driving and has increased the penalties to discourage motorists from engaging in this behavior behind the wheel. Along those lines, the most important change to the law is that a violation now carriers five points and a fine. For a first offense, the fine ranges from $50 to $150. For the second offense committed within 18 months, the fine ranges from $50 to $200. For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, the fine ranges from $50 to $400. In addition to the points and fine, any conviction includes a mandatory New York State surcharge of $93.
Financially, it just doesn't make sense to drive distracted.
There are a few exceptions to the Distracted Driving laws. The law permits the use of a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand. Keep in mind, however, when the law says hands-free mobile telephone, it really means hands-free -- if you think you can hold your phone in your hand while using speaker phone, you are wrong! The Distracted Driving law specifically states that, "A person who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway including temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device or other momentary delays...is presumed to be using such device".
The Distracted Driving law also makes an exception for use of a GPS device or other electronic device that is attached to the vehicle. Importantly, it is always okay to use your mobile phone in a genuine emergency. The statute allows an exception to call "911", a hospital, doctor's office, fire department, or police department in an emergency situation. Finally, if you have ever wondered why it's okay for police officers to drive around on a phone, the law makes an exception for the law enforcement.
Stay safe while on the roads this holiday season. If you find yourself ticketed, however, give us a call. Hiring an experienced attorney on your vehicle and traffic matter quite often means that you won't even have to appear in traffic court!