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Does New York ban drivers from using handheld devices?

Taking selfies and text messaging is a pervasive part of life in New York City. However, the state of New York bans driving while talking on a handheld mobile telephone, reading and sending text messages, playing games and viewing, taking or transmitting images.

Commercial drivers may not make a phone call or use a portable electronic device while the vehicle is stopped in traffic, at a traffic control device or because of other momentary delays. A commercial driver who holds a portable electronic device while the vehicle is stationery under these conditions is considered to be using the device.

Violations may lead to the addition of five violation points to a driver’s record. Drivers with a probationary license, Class DJ, Class MJ or learner’s permit face a mandatory 60-day license suspension. A second conviction within six months will result in a minimum 6-month revocation of a probationary license or at least a 60-day revocation of a Class DJ or MJ driver’s license or learner permit.

Fines may also be imposed for using a mobile phone or portable electronic device. These include $50 to $150 for the first offense; $50 to $200 for a second offense committed within 18 months; and, $50 to $400 for a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months. A $93 surcharge may also be levied.

It is not illegal for a driver to use a hands-free mobile telephone, hands-free electronic devices or GPS machines that are attached to the vehicle. Drivers may also use these devices to communicate an emergency to first-responders, a hospital or a physician’s office.

Driving while using these devices is manifestly dangerous. Using a cell phone or operating a PDA substantially increases the risk of an auto accident. Even looking away from the road for two to three seconds doubles the risk of an accident.

The law will not end this reckless behavior. Victims of car accidents caused by a distracted driver should seek legal assistance to assure that their rights to damages are protected and that they may seek compensation for serious injuries and other losses.

Source: SafeNY, “Distracted driving, talk & texting,” Accessed on Sept. 22, 2014