New Suffolk County Law Sets $150 Fine for Texting While Driving

Starting September 21, 2008, Suffolk County drivers caught driving while text messaging will face a $150.00 fine under a new county law that is the first of its kind in New York State. Westchester and Nassau recently approved similar laws, but those measures have not taken effect. New York City is considering a similar ban. Four other states have such a law: Alaska, Washington, Minnesota and New Jersey.

County officials said they hope that the new law will encourage New York lawmakers to approve a statewide measure. In May of this year, State Senate Republicans passed legislation yesterday prohibiting drivers from writing, sending, or reading text messages, unless they are able to do so without using at least one hand, according to the bill language. Under the bill, motorists who key text messages into their cell phones while driving in New York State could be slapped with $100 fines.

Officials had no accident statistics for Suffolk on texting while driving. But a national study by the Virginia Technical Transportation Institute showed that eight of 10 accidents and 65 percent of near-accidents occurred because of distractions within 3 seconds of an accident.

Sponsor Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said at a press conference that text messaging may have been the reason for a recent upstate SUV accident where three teens were killed. Schneiderman added that violations can be easily proved electronically because texting “creates a record you can’t run from.” There are reports that text messaging may also be linked to the California railroad accident that killed 25 people.

According to the reports, friends of the engineer of commuter train involved in the crash said they were texting with the engineer shortly before the crash.

There is some controversy surrounding a new system introduced by the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission to dispatch handicapped-accessible taxicabs via BlackBerry. The taxi drivers are asked to text-message back to the dispatcher if they are available to pick up a passenger who has called the city’s 311 line to request a special cab. The taxi commissioner, Matthew W. Daus, said that the new trial system required drivers to pull over when using their texting devices. Once encouraged to text on their BlackBerry to pick-up a fare, how often do you think a taxi driver will actually pull over?

Last year, five Rochester girls who had just graduated from high school were killed when the SUV that one of them was driving swerved into incoming traffic, slammed into a tractor-trailer, and burst into flames. Reports came out later that a phone belonging to the girl behind the wheel had sent a text message two minutes before the crash. She was also reportedly speeding on the two-lane highway.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience getting results for our clients, including personal injury claims of pedestrians injured by negligently operated motor vehicles. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. To learn more, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help, or watch our videos.

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