For more than ten years, Taxi and Limousine Commission rules have prohibited drivers from using cell phones while driving. In May, 1999, the Commission was the first regulator in the country to ban hands-free cell phone use while driving. Now the TLC has gone further. Effective January 29, 2010, the ban against licensees using a telephone while operating a vehicle has been expanded to include portable and hands-free electronic devices in the hopes of reducing distracted driving that often leads to auto accidents.
According to the TLC website, the rule makes four other changes to existing rules: Expands the definition of use from using a telephone to using any of the functions of any portable or hands-free electronic device, or having a device that permits the hands-free use of a portable or hands-free electronic device in the immediate proximity of the drivers ear. Increases the assessment of persistent violator points against taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers who use portable or hands-free electronic devices.
The base penalty is increased from two to three persistent violator points, which would apply to first and second offenses. For a third offense, the driver would be assessed four points. As a result, even if the driver had no other persistent violator points, the drivers license would be suspended for 30 days after a second violation, and the drivers license would be revoked after a third violation committed within 15 months. Requires a driver who commits a violation to take a new driver education course emphasizing the dangers of driving while distracted by portable or handsfree electronic devices. Requires a passenger information decal in taxicabs, highlighting the new restrictions against driver use of portable or hands-free electronic devices.
The rules apply to taxi drivers, paratransit drivers and drivers of vehicles for hire. The rules permit use of these devices if the taxicab is lawfully standing or parked. The rules define a portable or hands-free electronic device as any electronic device able to: 1. make a wireless telephone call 2. send or receive a text message 3. allow its user to speak on the telephone hands-free or operate a device by voice command, even when otherwise allowed by New York State law 4. act as a personal assistant (PDA) 5. send and or receive data from the internet or from a wireless network 6. act as a laptop computer or portable computer 7. receive or send pages 8. allow two-way communications between different people or parties 9. play electronic games 10. play music or video; or 11. make or display images; or 12. any combination of the above.
This definition is to be liberally construed in light of its purpose to minimize the distraction of drivers, and in recognition of the rapid development of electronic technologies and proliferation of electronic devices that may be made available in the future that similarly transfer digital images, sounds or messages. Justification given by the TLC for the tighter rules includes the Virginia Tech Transportation Institutes study demonstrating that texting while driving increases a drivers collision risk 23-fold. Also cited is the U.S. Department of Transportations National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as a study published by University of Utah psychologists, finding that hands-free use of cell phones was no safer than handheld use. The studies concluded that the distracting effects of phone conversation are not mitigated by the use of hands-free devices.
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