What are the laws on cell phone use, texting or sending email while you operate a vehicle in NYS?
Under New York State law you cannot use a hand-held mobile telephone or send a text or an email while you drive. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive, except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency, or use a device to text or send email, you can receive a traffic ticket and pay a fine of $150 and surcharge as described below.
In 2013, several changes are being made to the penalties for these violations as described below.
Increased Driver Violation Points
New Suspensions and Revocations for Probationary and Junior Drivers
For violations that occur on and after July 1, 2013, the following changes affect drivers with probationary driver licenses, Class DJ or Class MJ driver licenses or learner permits:
- Conviction will result in suspension of the driver license or permit for 60 days.
- A second such conviction within six months will result in:
- a revocation of at least 6 months of a probationary license, or
- a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit.
New Minimum Fines and Increased Maximum Fines and Surcharges
For violations that occur on or after July 26, 2013, there are new minimum fines and higher maximum fines increase as follows:
- For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and maximum fine increases to $150.
- For a second offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $200.
- For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $400.
The surcharge for these violations that occur on or after July 26th is up to $93.
For texting and cell phone violations that occurred before July 26, 2013, the fines were:
Cell phone violation - Up to $100
Texting violation - Up to $100
The surcharge for these violations that occurred before July 26th was up to $85.
New Penalties for Motor Carriers and Commercial Vehicle Drivers
For violations committed by commercial vehicle drivers on and after October 28, 2013, the following changes take effect:
- A motor carrier must not allow or require their drivers to use cell phones or texting devices while driving.
- A mobile telephone used by a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle shall not be deemed a "hands-free mobile telephone" when the driver presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone.
- A commercial vehicle driver is not allowed to make a phone call or use a texting device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays.
- A commercial vehicle driver who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is also presumed to be engaged in a call.
- A commercial vehicle driver who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device.
For complete information on this traffic safety issue and a copy of the law, see the Distracted Driving page at the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee web site.