Officials at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) have announced that the Department will impose two points on the driving records of those who have been found guilty of driving while using a cell phone for offenses committed on or after February 16, 2011. Previously, no points were assigned for talking on a cell phone although two points are assigned for texting while driving violations. The new regulation will align the point penalty for both violations.
“Distracted driving is one of the most serious dangers on our roadways today,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner J. David Sampson. “By strengthening the current law, our hope is that motorists will become even more aware of the potential consequences of their actions if they use a cell phone while driving.”
In November 2001, New York became the first in the nation to adopt a state-wide ban on handheld cell phone use while driving and established a fine for the violation of up to $100. In November 2009, a law eliminating the use of portable electronic devices for texting while driving took effect, a violation that currently has two points attached to it along with a $150 fine.
In New York State, driver distraction is a contributing factor in at least one out of five crashes. Each year over 300,000 tickets are issued statewide for cell phone violations. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died nationwide in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than 440,000 were injured.
The change was made possible by a change in the DMV Commissioner Regulations (15 NYCRR 131). The Department received no public comments on this change that was posted in the State Register.