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New York City’s Distracted Driving Laws

October 25, 2018 Car Accidents

Distracted driving is a serious issue plaguing the streets of New York City. As more drivers get comfortable using their cell phones while driving, the risk of distracted driving accidents continues to increase. Distracted driving is an incredibly dangerous driver behavior that can cause serious and fatal car accidents. Failing to pay attention to the road is a common act of negligence of which thousands of drivers are guilty.

Learn the facts about distracted driving and related laws in New York City to protect yourself and others.

Distracted Driving Stats

In 2016, 3,450 people died in traffic accidents involving distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Approximately 1,000 people suffer injuries and nine die in distracted-driving crashes every day in the U.S. Many victims are bicyclists and pedestrians. Surveys show that at least two in 10 adult drivers text or send emails while driving in New York City. Although New York City drivers are less likely to use cell phones while driving than drivers nationally, it is still prevalent in 22% of NYC drivers.

Men are slightly more likely than women to use their phones and drive in NYC (20% vs. 18%, respectively). Texting and emailing while driving was more prevalent amongst white drivers than other ethnicities. Staten Island reported higher amounts of cellphone use while driving than the other boroughs. Younger drivers (ages 18 to 24) are more likely to text and email while driving than older drivers. About one in six teenage drivers text and drive in NYC. Despite knowing that texting and emailing while driving is dangerous, thousands of drivers disobey the law and risk lives every day.

What Does the Law Say in New York City?

Like most states, New York has passed several laws controlling the use of cell phones while driving. Under state law, drivers cannot use handheld electronic devices in any way behind the wheel. Texting, talking, playing games, viewing web pages, and emailing using a handheld device are all against the law while driving anywhere in the state. The only exceptions are if the driver is making an emergency phone call. It is okay for drivers to use hands-free devices behind the wheel if it does not impede the driving ability.

New York State police and lawmakers have been cracking down on anti-cellphone laws in recent years. The number of tickets police have issued for texting and driving in New York has increased 918% from 2011 to 2016. In 2016, New York police officers issued 205,213 cellphone-related traffic tickets to drivers. The number of texting-related tickets increased from 84,794 in 2015 to 92,097 in 2016. If you get a traffic ticket for breaking New York’s distracted driving laws, you could face up to $450 in fines and driver’s license suspension.

The fine for a first cellphone-related offense in New York starts at $50 but can escalate to $200 maximum. For a second offense within 18 months, fines can increase to $250. For subsequent offenses within 18 months, drivers may pay up to $450. Probationary drivers who break the cellphone law can lose their licenses for 120 days for a first offense, and for up to one year if they commit a second offense within six months. Breaking the cellphone law will also result in points on your driver’s license. If you accumulate 11 points in 18 months, you may face license suspension.

Penalties for Causing an Accident While Driving Distracted

Paying fines and losing your license might not be the worst repercussions you face if your distracted driving causes a car accident. The City of New York could prosecute you, bringing vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter charges against you for recklessly injuring or killing someone while texting and driving. Convictions for these crimes could result in years behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, and lifelong consequences to your career, rights, and relationships. Put your phone away while driving in New York City to avoid a range of serious costs.

If you were involved in a distracted driving accident, speak to one of our New York City distracted driving lawyers now.