By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY New texting laws take effect Monday for drivers with commercial licenses, banning them from using their phones even at traffic stops.
WEB EXTRA: You can read the number of texting tickets by a list of counties here.
The legislation, which was passed by the state Legislature earlier this year, is similar to a law passed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2011 on interstate truck drivers.
The state law applies to intrastate travel, state officials said.
"This change is the vehicle and traffic law is another example of how the message is being sent that texting or using a cell phone while driving will not be tolerated in New York state," Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala said in a statement.
The state Motor Truck Association said the state law is consistent with the federal law that truck drivers have been following.
"The state is now requiring intrastate carriers to adhere to the same rules to which the majority of the industry has been subject since Jan. 3, 2012," said Karin White, the group's deputy director.
The texting-while-driving law for truck drivers is more stringent than for regular drivers. For regular drivers, the law only applies to when a car is in motion, a DMV spokeswoman said.
The law says that an operator of commercial motor vehicle "is deemed to be 'using' a mobile telephone when such person presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone."
Using a mobile telephone "in such a manner" by a commercial driver "is not deemed to be a 'hands-free device,'" the law says.
The law also forbids a commercial driver from using a cell phone or a "portable electronic device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays."
A violation would lead to charges and a mandatory suspension of a commercial driver's license, the law says.
It's the latest toughening of laws regarding distracted driving in New York.
In July, Cuomo signed into law a bill that increases the penalty from three to five points on a license for texting. The new law also adds texting while driving to the infractions for probationary and junior licenses that can lead to a suspension for 60 days.
In 2011, Cuomo and the Legislature made texting a primary offense, meaning police can pull someone over specifically for texting behind the wheel.
It's led to a surge in tickets. Through mid-October, there were more than 43,000 tickets issued for texting, compared to 30,000 in all of 2012.
The total includes 24,000 in New York City and 19,000 in the rest of the state, figures from the state DMV showed.
Broome County had 289 texting tickets issued this year, compared to 168 tickets last year. There were 143 tickets in Chemung County, compared to 107 in 2012.
In larger counties, Westchester had 1,570 texting tickets issued this year compared to 975 last year. In Monroe, the number of texting tickets grew from 1,124 to 1,559 between 2012 and this year, the DMV said.
The number of tickets dropped slightly in Erie County: from 1,615 to 1,568.
Dutchess County had 726 texting tickets this year, compared to 419 last year. In Tompkins County, texting tickets increased from 147 to 208.