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One-year anniversary of distracted driving bill shows fourfold increase in cell phone citations

A little over a year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed one of the state's most stringent vehicle traffic laws into effect. Specifically, back on July 12, 2011, he signed a bill designed to crack down on distracted driving by effectively banning motorists from using their cell phones or other handheld devices while behind the wheel.

In other words, texting while driving and the general use of a cell phone/handheld device are now primary offenses here in New York. This means that any law enforcement official in the state can stop and ticket you solely for these acts.

Prior to July 12, 2011 however, texting while driving was only considered a secondary offense, meaning a law enforcement official could not issue a citation for it unless they first witnessed a primary offense -- such as speeding -- and pulled the driver over.

The penalties for texting while driving or using a cell phone/handheld device are now severe, including a $150 fine and three points against a driver's license.

Gov. Cuomo took the time to commemorate the anniversary of the bill signing last Thursday and his office released some rather eye-opening figures indicating that New York's finest have been very busy enforcing this new law.

  • From July 12, 2011 to July 12, 2012, authorities issued approximately 20,958 citations for texting while driving
  • From July 12, 2010 to July 12, 2011, authorities issued only 4,569 citations for texting while driving

"The major increase in tickets issued for texting-while-driving violations since this law went into effect demonstrates its usefulness in helping our law enforcement authorities crack down hard on distracted driving," said Governor Cuomo in a released statement. "These tickets should send a resounding message to all drivers: keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel."

Interestingly, the Governor's office also released a breakdown of how many texting-while-driving violations were written for each county over the last year. Some notable examples include:

  • Nassau County - 505
  • Suffolk County - 908
  • Westchester County - 720
  • Rockland County - 151
  • Ulster County - 246
  • Sullivan County - 32
  • Queens County - 3,334
  • Orange County - 292

If you have been issued a traffic citation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Stay tuned for further developments from our New York vehicle traffic law blog ...


The Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, "Governor Cuomo announces more than four times as many tickets issued for texting while driving since tough, new law took effect " July 12, 2012

Insurance Journal, "NY issued 20,958 tickets for texting while driving during past year," July 13, 2012

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