Senate acts to strengthen law against texting while driving

Thomas F. O'Mara

May 04, 2011

Albany, N.Y.--The New York State Senate has approved legislation aimed at trying to prevent the thousands of deaths occurring on the nation’s highways as the result of what some are calling an epidemic of drivers who send text messages while behind the wheel.

The legislation was approved with strong, bipartisan support by a vote of 57 to 3.  O’Mara voted in favor of the bill, which now goes to the Assembly.

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.      

If signed into law, the Senate-approved measure (S.998-B) would elevate text messaging while driving from a secondary to a primary violation, making it easier for law enforcement to target texting-while-driving offenses.   The legislation would also add a cell phone safety section to the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) pre-licensing course.

Under current law, a motorist can only be cited for texting-while-driving if they’re stopped and ticketed as the result of a primary violation, such as speeding.

John A. Corlett, Chair of the Automobile Association of America’s Legislative Committee, said, “The secondary nature of the current New York State law dilutes its deterrence value.  This bill would stiffen the consequences for those who endanger the rest of us with their careless conduct.  There is overwhelming public consensus on the unique threat of text-messaging while driving, and state legislators need to enact a tougher law.”

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