Texting While Driving Officially Illegal In New York State

Not only is it illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving, it is now against the law to text while driving too.

Gov. David A Paterson signed several bills into law Thursday, including one to make the roads safer. Drivers can no longer read or send text or picture messages on their handheld device or laptop while their car is in motion. Lawbreakers face fines up to $150.

According to the new law, anti-texting fines can only be imposed as a second offense if the driver appears to be breaking another law.

Local lawmakers lobbied for the ban after five teenage girls died in June 2007 when their driver accidentally veered into the path of a tractor-trailer while she was texting. On another occasion, a 22-year-old driver crashed her truck while she was texting her boyfriend, who was driving a different car.

In July, Sen. Charles Schumer unveiled a bill that would ban mass transit drivers from using electronic devices while inside a on duty. His proposal came on the heels of public transportation accidents in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Boston when several passengers were either killed or injured due to a distracted train driver.

It is already illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone while operating a vehicle in New York State. Drivers are allowed to only use hands-free devices while driving and NYPD held a 24-hour ticket blitz to remind drivers of this fact. Officers issued tickets carrying fines of $130 to drivers they caught violating this law.

According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2002 more than 950 deaths and 240,000 accidents were related to cell phone use.

Among the other measures Gov. Paterson signed into law were bills to ban the use of the term “Oriental” in state documents, adding domestic partners in a same-sex relationship to consent to organ donations, and requiring utility and service companies to provide large-print versions of bills upon request.

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