Senate Passes Bill To Ban Texting While Driving

Martin J. Golden

May 30, 2008

Albany- State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) today joined
colleagues in the New York State Senate is passing legislation that would
prohibit drivers from sending text messages while driving. The bill
(S.3195-C), sponsored by Senator Carl Marcellino (R, Syosset), amends
previous legislation banning cell phone use while driving by prohibiting
drivers from writing, sending or reading text messages on a mobile
telephone or any other mobile device.

“Text messaging is the ultimate distraction, taking any and all focus
and attention off the road. Most of the time you’re using two thumbs, plus
you’re looking at the screen,” said Senator Marty Golden. “And if you’re
driving, that fraction of a second that you take your eye off the road can
be the difference between an accident or not.”

“It is vitally important that drivers remain focused and attentive
while they are behind the wheel,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L.
Bruno. “This bill will force drivers to think twice before reaching for
their cell phones and give law enforcement officials across our state the
tools necessary to keep our roads that much safer.”

In July 2007, five high school graduates were killed in an automobile
accident in upstate New York. According to police, text messages were sent
and received on the 17 year-old driver’s cell phone moments before her SUV
slammed head on into a truck.

A recent survey conducted by the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
found that one in five drivers are texting while behind the wheel. The same
survey found that the figure rises to one in three for drivers aged 18-34.
A 2007 Harris Interactive poll found that 91 percent of Americans think
driving while texting is as dangerous as drunk driving and 89 percent of
those polled support a ban.

“This legislation would build upon the current state ban on the use
of handheld phones by prohibiting the use of handheld communication devices
to send text messages, e-mail, etc. while operating a motor vehicle.
Clearly, such conduct while driving represents behavior that is more
dangerous than using handheld phones and should be prohibited,” said
Antoanela Vaccaro, Manager of Government Affairs for AAA New York.

The bill adds texting to the language of the state’s current law that
bans talking on a cell phone while driving. It also requires that at least
one question on the NYS DMV licensing written examination relates to cell
phone safety and calls for the DMV Commissioner to provide for the
additional training of pre-licensing course instructors to ensure
competency in cell phone safety instruction. The educational component of
the bill will help teach and inform drivers that texting while driving is
against the law.

The penalty for driving while texting would be a $100 fine, the same
as the original cell phone ban. The original cell phone language did not
cover texting because the language of the bill was specific to making a
voice call.

Senator Marty Golden concluded, “We must continue to do everything in
our power to make our roads safer. Now is the time to end texting while
driving before more of our young people, or anyone else for that matter,
become victims."

The bill was sent to the Assembly.