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New York laws crack down on distracted drivers

New Yorkers love their Smartphones and electronic devices. You will see heads buried over phones and tablets in any subway car or train in the city. It is certainly fine to lose oneself in a mindless game of Candy Crush or Facebook while a passenger. The problem is that some are texting, updating statuses and holding animated telephone conversations while behind the wheel.

New York bans drivers from using any portable electronic devices, which also includes talking on handheld cellphones. Other prohibited activities for New York drivers include:

-- Playing games on phones

-- Taking pictures

--Viewing or transmitting images

-- Composing, accessing, reading, browsing, sending, retrieving, saving or transmitting electronic data in the form of webpages, texts or emails

There are some exceptions for drivers. New York laws permit drivers to use hands-free cellphones to communicate without using their hands. They can also use GPS devices that are affixed to the vehicle dashboard and make emergency calls to police, fire, EMS, hospitals and physicians when necessary.

Violations are considered to be primary offenses that allow law enforcement to stop drivers they observe using hand-held devices when operating a moving vehicle. Violations carry five driver's license points.

Beginning in November of last year, drivers with learner's permits, probationary licenses, Class MJ or Class DJ licenses face the following sanctions for violating these rules:

-- 1st offense -- Mandatory 120-day suspension of permit or license.

-- 2nd and subsequent convictions (within six months of license being restored) -- One year revocation of permit or junior or probationary license.

Fines were increased for all violators in November 2014 as well. Fines for first offenses can now be from $50 to $200. Second offense within an 18-month period can cost up to $250, while third and subsequent offenses in the same time frame can run as high as $450.

The reasons for the increased penalties are clear -- distracted drivers cause more accidents than those with their minds and eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. If you have been injured by a distracted driver using an electronic device, you may have a cause of action to file a civil claim in the New York court system.

Source: SafeNY, "Distracted Driving, Talking & Texting" accessed Jan. 23, 2015

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