Senate Approves Tougher Penalties to Those Who Don't Hang up and Drive
Albany, NY (WBEN) As part of the state budget, the State Senate has approved tougher penalties against those who text or use a handheld cellphone while driving.
“Distracted driving has forced far too many families to endure preventable tragedies,” Kennedy said. “By cracking down on cell phone use behind the wheel, we will help prevent avoidable and unfortunate traffic accidents, improve the safety of our state’s roadways and ultimately save lives. These stronger penalties send a clear message to distracted drivers: keep your eyes on the road and off your phone.”
The law increases penalties and fines for individuals who put themselves and other drivers at risk by using a handheld electronic device while driving for actions such as texting while driving. It targets frequent offenders with specific provisions for harsher penalties for repeat violations. The new measure establishes a minimum fine for the first offense and enhanced fines for any subsequent violations. For a first offense, a violator must be fined at least $50 and can be fined up to $150. A second offense can result in a fine of up to $200, and fines for a third offense can go up to $400.
The budget also contains provisions to deter operators of large commercial motor vehicles from using cell phones while driving. Under this new measure, an individual’s Commercial Drivers License (CDL) may be suspended if he or she violates state laws against texting or other cell phone use while operating a large commercial vehicle. This brings state law into compliance with federal regulations. Failure to comply with federal rules would have put New York State in jeopardy of losing $64 million in federal highway aid and $8 million in Federal Motor Carrier Safey Administration program funding.
“With the launch of this new initiative to prevent distracted driving, New Yorkers will have safer roads for their daily commutes for years to come,” Kennedy added. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Cuomo for their support and leadership on this critical highway-safety issue.”
The budget bills, which include the tougher penalties for distracted driving, must now be approved by the Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.