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Cell Phone and Texting Update

The next session of the New York State Legislature provides for consideration of a bill that will totally ban the use of cell phones while driving. The only exemption would be for calls in an emergency. This bill would be among the first in the nation to be considered. New York has a history of being in the forefront of distracted driving issues, having passed the first ever ban of handheld cell phone use while driving.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data for 2009, drivers who are texting or using handheld devices are on the rise while cellphone use (driver holding the phone to the ear) has stayed the same. About 674,000 drivers were holding phones to their ears while driving at any given moment in 2010.

There is no doubt that distracted driving kills and seriously injures many people. More than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2010 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted driving.

Other bills that the legislature will be considering include the following:

  • Assembly bill 2668 bans the display of video in the front seat area of a vehicle, within view of the driver.
  • Assembly bill 1961 requires the police to list on accident reports whether a cell phone was in use when the accident occurred.
  • Assembly bill 3718 requires that texting and handheld cell phone laws apply when vehicles are stopped at stop signs, traffic lights, railroad crossings or due to heavy traffic.

Persons who cause accidents while engaging in distracted driving may be the subject of a lawsuit.