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Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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New York bill makes distracted driving a primary offense

In 2001, New York legislators passed a bill which banned texting while driving as "distracted driving" became a national focus in terms of roadway safety. The initial law made distracted driving a secondary offense, meaning that it could not be the basis of a traffic stop, but once pulled over, a driver could also be fined $100 for their cell phone use.

Distracted driving never seemed to leave the scene as reports were released showing that the problem was not going away. New York legislators have once again turned their focus on traffic violations for distracted driving. A bill was passed in both the Assembly and the Senate this week that will make distracted driving a primary offense.

The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg was introduced on June 1, 2011. Weisenberg's history as a police officer and high school driver ed. teacher became a motivating force for pushing the bill through.

"I saw the consequences of what takes place when people are distracted and have accidents," he told reporters when discussing the need to stop distracted driving. "I've had people die in my arms; I've had people that killed other people."

The legislative bill is not the only effort being put forth to deter New York drivers from using mobile devices while behind the wheel. Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to increase the penalty for a distracted driving violation from two points to three points on a license. While the future of his program bill is unknown, it looks like the focus on reducing distracted driving is not diminishing any time soon.

Source: Legislative Gazette, "Legislature adopts distracted driving bill," Trevor T. Alford, 16 June 2011

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