Effective immediately, it is a primary traffic offense for drivers to use handheld electronic devices for activities such as texting while a vehicle is in motion, thereby giving law enforcement the power to stop drivers solely for engaging in this activity. Before this law, it was illegal for drivers to use handheld electronic devices while their vehicle was in motion, but it was a secondary traffic offense — meaning a driver had to be stopped for another violation in order to receive a ticket. The monetary penalty for a violation of this law continues to be a fine of up to $150. Changes in state regulations will increase the penalty for using a cellular phone without a hands-free device or a handheld device while driving from two to three points.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has data showing that drivers talking on their cell phones experience the same potentially deadly distraction whether they are using a handheld device or hands-free technology. Illegal activity includes holding an electronic device and:
- 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
The law does not penalize drivers using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a surface or using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle. The law contains some exemptions:
- Police officers, fire fighters, or emergency vehicle drivers are exempt while they are performing their duties.
- A driver communicating or attempting to communicate with law enforcement, the fire department, or medical personnel during an emergency situation.
The NHTSA 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.
The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.