Texting While Driving Laws in NY Among Toughest

BUFFALO, NY - New York's texting while driving laws are some of the toughest in the country. And, this week with the state budget passage, a new round of increased penalties were approved.

The new law, which goes into effect Nov. 1, strengthens penalties against teenage and new drivers.

Many young drivers, when they get their permit or license, they can't wait to drive. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes is the leading cause of deaths among teens.

The tougher penalties in New York state tries to curb that number.

"What this is saying is that this is very serious," said Michael Formanowicz, the driving training manager with AAA.

The new texting while driving law impacts drivers under 18 who have their permit -- drivers with junior licenses and drivers with a probationary license -- which could be someone who has had their license revoked and just got it back.

For these drivers, if they're caught texting while driving on the first offense, they'll have their license revoked for 120 days. That's an increase from the 60 day penalty.

For the second offense, the license could be taken away for one year.

"And what we're hoping is that this creates a culture that is more aware of drivers safety and driving safely and what a better way to start with those newly-licensed drivers," Formanowicz said.

43 states ban texting while driving. This included all states, which have similar bans, that border New York.

For example, in New Jersey, drivers under 21 with a learner's permits or probationary license cannot use cell phones to text or talk while driving.

Violators could be fined up to $100.

And in Massachusetts, drivers under 18 cannot use cell phones for any reason while driving. Violators could also get a $100 fine.

Texting while driving fines in New York range from $50 to $150 for the first offense.

"People need to get the message and you know it's not just people under 18 there's still going to be strict laws on the texting part for adults, but not as strict as 18 and under," said Sen. Mark Grisanti.

Last summer, the state increased the point penalty for texting while driving from three to five.

"Now, if you get up to 11 points then your license can be suspended," Formanowicz said.

According the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the number of texting while driving tickets has been rising. In 2013, there were more than 55,000 texting-while-driving tickets issued in the state.

That's an increase of almost 82 percent from 2012.


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