Governor okays legislation to strengthen law against texting while driving

Thomas F. O'Mara

July 13, 2011

Albany, N.Y., July 13—Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law legislation aimed at trying to prevent the thousands of deaths occurring on New York's and the nation’s highways as the result of what some are calling an epidemic of drivers who send text messages while behind the wheel.

State Senator Tom O’Mara and his Senate colleagues approved the legislation with strong, bipartisan support, by a vote of 57 to 3, in May.  O’Mara voted in favor of the bill.

Federal data shows 16,000 deaths nationwide due to texting while driving. 

“Texting behind the wheel is a tragedy waiting to happen.  It’s one of the most dangerous pitfalls of this age of technology.  We’re hopeful that a tougher law, stricter enforcement and education can help restore some common sense and safety to New York’s roadways,” said O’Mara.

According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a driver is 23 percent more likely to be involved in an accident while text messaging. 

The new law also adds a cell phone safety section to the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) pre-licensing course.

Under previous law, a motorist could only be cited for texting-while-driving if they were stopped and ticketed as the result of a primary violation, such as speeding.

The new law elevates text messaging while driving from a secondary to a primary violation, making it easier for law enforcement to target texting-while-driving offenses.  

It takes effect immediately.