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Tougher texting laws

It's no secret, texting or talking without a hands-free device is illegal in New York.  Recent changes mean it will cost you more points on your license if you are caught.  But there are some things you might not know that are part of the distracted driving laws.

On November 1, 2009, the texting law went into effect in New York.  In July of 2011, police were given the authority to pull people over solely for this violation.  on June 5 of this year, the Senate approved a bill to strengthen penalties for violators.

Probably the biggest change comes for the people who may be texting the most -- young drivers who now face 60 days license suspension for hand-held communication.  A second offense within half a year would mean revocation for as many months on probationary licenses, and maybe sixty more days for a junior license holder.

There are other tough rules you may not have gotten the message about.

"Anybody that can argue that saving a life is too strict, I have no words for that," said Cornell Cooperative Extension Occupant Protection Educator Cindy Dort.

Dort believes New York is the lead car on a road of stricter enforcement others will follow.

"I hope it generates conversation all over the United States so that when New Yorkers drive in to New Jersey, or Massachusetts, or Vermont, they're just as safe there as they are here," Dort said.

But police may be busier writing tickets with a stronger law.  Now, even if you're at a stop light, or stopped in traffic, you could have to pay up!

"They have every right to pull you over and ticket you, and you could be subjected to five points," said Tully Rinckey attorney Lincy Jacob.

Those smart cars where you can simply "say a command" to make a call could still jam you up.

"If you have a hands-free device in your car and you have to press more than one button one time, that's illegal," Jacob said.

The definition of what a mobile device is changes, too.  It goes beyond a phone to anything used to send, receive, or read text "for present or future communication."  Dort believes, like the seat belt law, more tickets could yield to more compliance.

"I hope it's because they realize that they need to just drive," Dort said.

The maximum fine if you're caught up to three times in a year and a half will be $400.  There will be a crack down during the long weekend to include undercover vehicles.

Phones can do so much more than just send and receive messages.  The law now goes on to define using a portable electronic device to browsing the web on your phone.
 
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