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New York Distracted Driving Laws

New York Distracted Driving Laws


There are hundreds of thousands of car accidents every year in New York, and the vast majority of them are entirely preventable. Many of these crashes involve distracted driving, which is very dangerous. When most people think of distracted driving, they think of a motorist using their cell phone while behind the wheel. Although this is an extremely risky form of distracted driving, there are other forms, as well.

It’s difficult to prove another driver was distracted at the time of a crash, but it’s possible. It’s important to know New York’s distracted driving laws if you’re filing a claim for damages so you aren’t found liable in a lawsuit. Speak with a New York car accident attorney for assistance with your case.

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Types of Distracted Driving

Any time a driver pays attention to something else except for the road in front of them, it is distracted driving. Texting while driving or otherwise using a cell phone is the most obvious form of distracted driving. Other forms of distracted driving are as follows:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Reading
  • Grooming
  • Using a GPS or looking at maps
  • Daydreaming
  • Adjusting the climate control or radio controls
  • Rowdy passengers
  • Loud music

Not all forms of distracted driving are against the law in New York. Current state law focuses mainly on the use of cell phones and other handheld electronic devices. Still, it’s important that all drivers try to minimize distractions as much as possible on the road so they’re not found liable for a crash.

When Can Drivers be Charged with Other Types of Distracted Driving?

It’s true that certain forms of distracted driving are not against the law. That said, drivers won’t usually be charged with anything if they’re eating lunch while behind the wheel, or if they have rowdy passengers. However, it’s important to know that these legal forms of distracted driving can result in not only a lawsuit, but also charges.

When a driver is distracted and poses a danger to other motorists, police officers have a lot of discretion. They can pull someone over and ticket them with dangerous driving, which has replaced reckless driving in the statutes.

 For example, a police officer would not likely pull you over and charge you with distracted driving for eating a hamburger behind the wheel. However, if the distraction of your lunch posed such a problem that you weaved in and out lanes or otherwise drove dangerously, you could be charged with dangerous driving.

Using a Handheld Device While Driving in New York

New York doesn’t currently make certain driving behaviors, such as listening to loud music, against the law. However, there are very strict laws regarding using a handheld device while behind the wheel. These are as follows:

  • Drivers must use a hands-free device when talking on a cell phone.
  • Using a handheld device to text, play games, or a similar usage is strictly prohibited for anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • Taking, viewing, or transmitting pictures is prohibited for all motorists.
  • Television screens are permitted in vehicles, but cannot be within a driver’s view.
  • Taxi drivers are not permitted to use cell phones in any way, even when using a hands-free feature.

The distracted driving laws in New York are very strict, but there are some exceptions to know about, as well.

Exceptions to New York’s Distracted Driving Laws

There are several exceptions to the distracted driving laws in the state. They are as follows:

  • Motorists can use electronic devices that are part of the vehicle’s structure, such as a dashboard computer.
  • Drivers can use certain electronic devices, such as mobile phones, MP3 players, and GPS devices, as long as they are using a hands-free feature.
  • Motorists can use a handheld device to phone 911 in the event of an emergency, or to call a hospital or physician if they are experiencing a personal emergency.
  • Professional drivers that are authorized to operate an emergency motor vehicle, such as an ambulance, while using a handheld device if they are doing so while performing their official duties.

Unlike many other states, New York doesn’t impose any special laws for younger drivers. Any driver can also send or receive texts while stopped at a red light, and motorists can also use a headphone or headset, as long as they only use it in one ear.

Penalties for Distracted Driving in New York

The laws on distracted driving in New York are quite strict and those that violate them will face serious penalties. They include:

  • First offense: A first offense will result in a fine between $50 and $200.
  • Second offense: A second offense within 18 months of the first has a penalty of a fine between $50 and $250.
  • Third offense: A third offense within 18 months carries a penalty of a fine between $50 and $450.

Many people may not think a fine is that serious, even if they’re convicted of using a handheld device while driving three times. However, it’s important to note that with each citation, five demerit points are also added to your driving record.

Additionally, while younger drivers don’t have specific laws that apply to them, they will lose their driver’s license if they are caught using a handheld device even once. For a first offense, the penalty is a suspension of the driver’s license or permit for 120 days. A second offense within six months from the first citation will result in a revocation of the driver’s license or permit for one year.

It’s just as important to remember that while the laws in the state are strict, there are other consequences of distracted driving, as well. If you cause an accident because you’re not concentrating on the road, you could be held liable for any serious injuries sustained.

Call Our New York Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers Today

It’s important to know New York’s distracted driving laws. If you’ve been in a crash involving a distracted driver, contact our New York distracted driving accident lawyers today. At Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C., our experienced attorneys know how to prove a driver was distracted at the time of the accident and will help you secure the fair settlement you deserve. Call us today at 1-877-ASK4SAM or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.