The past few months have seen New York take the initiative in enacting legislation to make the roads safer and reduce motor vehicle accidents. These pieces of legislation include increased fines for distracted driving violations that include texting-while-driving, using a cell phone while driving, and increasing the penalties for younger drivers engaging in these types of prohibited activities. New legislation also updates the current Leandra’s law to make it a felony to drive drunk on a conditional license. Finally, legislation was signed into law permitting New York City to establish a five-year demonstration program to monitor school speed zones in New York City with speed cameras and to allow evidence captured on camera to be used to impose liability for speeding.
The new fines for distracted driving violations were passed as part of the 2013-14 State Budget. As of July 26, 2013, there are new minimum fines and higher maximum fines for distracted driving violations:
- For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and maximum fine increases to $150.
- For a second offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $200.
- For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $400.
On June 1, 2013, DMV increased the number of points earned against an individual’s driving record upon conviction for texting-while-driving and cell-phone related infractions from three points to five points.
A new law effective July 1, 2013 imposes the same penalties on drivers with probationary and junior licenses for texting-while-driving and using a hand-held cell phone that they had received for speeding and reckless driving: 60-day suspensions for first convictions and revocations of 60 days (for junior licenses) or 6 months (for probationary licenses) for subsequent convictions within 6 months of the time a license is restored after suspension.
Leandra’s Law was named after 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in a crash while a passenger in a car driven by a drunken driver. The new law signed updates the current law to make it a felony to drive drunk on a conditional license. Conditional licenses may be issued to drivers who lose their license for drunk driving if they are enrolled in an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program run by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A conditional license may be used only for driving to and from essential destinations such as work, school, and medical appointments. Currently, driving drunk on a revoked license is a felony, but driving drunk on a conditional license is only a traffic infraction. This change makes the penalties equivalent.
The legislation also expands the requirements for the use of ignition interlock devices by making youthful offenders subject to the same ignition interlock requirements that are now applicable to adults.
The new law that permits New York City to establish a five-year demonstration program to monitor school speed zones in New York City with speed cameras will enhance the safety of children, pedestrians and drivers in New York City school speed zones by encouraging drivers to drive with caution through these areas and supplement law enforcement efforts to catch violations and prevent accidents caused by speeding.
The law authorizes New York City to set up speed cameras in up to 20 school speed zones at a given time. This speed camera program is very similar to the New York City red-light camera program, such as:
- Liability for violations would be imposed upon the owner of the vehicle;
- Violations would be adjudicated by the NYC Parking Violations Bureau; and
- The monetary penalty may not exceed $50 per violation, except that an additional $25 penalty may be imposed for failure to respond to a notice of liability within a prescribed time period.
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