The smartphone is becoming an integral part of the American way of life, alongside the automobile. Unfortunately, the intersection of these two lifestyles on the roads of New York has dangerous consequences. In New York City, the number of auto accidents has risen dramatically due to distracted driving, and cell phone use while driving in particular. In an effort to make our roads safer, laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving have been enacted and strictly enforced.
Enforcement – What Are the Laws About Cell Phones and Driving?
There are two laws in New York regarding the use of cell phones while driving.
The first is VTL 1225(c): Mobile phone use… The driver of a motor vehicle who holds a mobile phone to his or her ear or in close proximity to the ear while the vehicle is in motion is presumed to be on a call.
Unless the driver is reporting an emergency, any driver caught using a handheld phone while driving is in violation of the law.
The second regulation is VTL 1225(d): Utilization of portable electronic devices… No person may operate a motor vehicle while simultaneously using a portable electronic device while the vehicle is in motion.
This law applies to all smartphone uses other than making phone calls. Everything from texting to Facebook scrolling in traffic, and even GPS app use. A driver is in violation of the law if they are using a phone while driving. This law applies to all electronic devices, but is most commonly enforced against smartphone-using motorists. It is occasionally called a “texting violation.”
In the state of New York, it is a primary offence to use a cell phone while driving. This means that traffic officers do not need to observe you speeding or running a stop sign in order to conduct a traffic stop. If a police officer observes you holding a cell phone, they have probable cause to pull you over.
Using a handheld device while driving in the state of New York constitutes a violation of the law. And a traffic officer can pull you over and issue you a ticket if they observe you using your phone while driving.
New York State Fines and Surcharges – How Much Does a Cell Phone Ticket Cost in New York?
Both VTL 1225 (c) (cell phone use) and VTL 1225 (d) (use of electronic devices) carry the same hefty fines for violations.
- Infringers can be fined up to $150.
- The maximum fine for a second offence within 18 months of a first violation is $250.
- A third offence within the same 18-month period could result in a $450 fine.
In addition to the fine, all violators must also pay a $93 surcharge.
That means a single texting-while-driving ticket could cost up to $243. After paying all fines and surcharges, repeat offenders who are convicted three times within 18 months may be required to pay up to $1129.
Driver Violation Point System – Does a Cell Phone Ticket Count Against my License?
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles employs a Driver Violation Point System to monitor driving and penalise high-risk motorists. Each traffic infraction carries a point value (For example, failure to signal carries 2 points, red-light violations carry 3 points). If a driver accrues 11 or more points within a period of 18 months, their licence may be suspended.
A violation of either cell phone-related traffic law results in the accumulation of five Driver Violation Points. In the state of New York, a driver must pay the Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee if they accumulate more than six Driver Violation Points in a period of 18 months.
When a driver accumulates six Driver Violation Points, he or she incurs a $300 fine, plus an additional $75 for each subsequent Driver Violation Point.
Insurance – Can a Cell Phone Ticket Affect my Insurance?
Most insurance companies will increase premiums for drivers who violate cell phone laws while operating a motor vehicle. Since 2011, auto insurance premiums in New York have increased by an average of 28%. This is significantly lower than the national average of 23% (in California, the average increase in insurance premiums for a cell phone violation is 45%).
Are Cell Phone Tickets More Expensive in New York City Than in the Rest of New York State?
Even though the traffic laws, fines, and surcharges associated with cell phone violations are identical in New York City and the rest of the state, the consequences of using a cell phone within the five boroughs are frequently more severe than outside the city.
This is because the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) instead of a typical city or county traffic court processes driving violations in New York City. The TVB does not offer drivers many opportunities to plead guilty. Consequently, the vast majority of cases involving cell phone use while driving result in convictions.
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