Articles Posted in Traffic Legislative Update

New York bans the use of “portable electronic devices” while driving, which includes writing or reading text messages. Amendments to New York traffic laws several years ago increased the number of “points” attached to the offense. A driver accrues a certain number of points for different traffic infractions. Accruing too many points results in license suspension. Police in Westchester County and around the state are on the lookout for texting while driving offenses. The number of convictions spiked shortly after the new law took effect. While the number of annual tickets has fallen since then, enforcement has remained steady. Police often use texting violations to identify other infractions, such as lack of seat belts. New York drivers should be aware of these laws and the potential consequences.

Section 1225-D of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law prohibits texting while driving. A fine for a first offense may range from $50 to $100. A second offense within eighteen months of the first may result in a fine of $50 to $250. For a third offense within that time frame, the maximum fine increases to $450. In 2013, a new law took effect that increased penalties for texting while driving. Shortly afterwards, the governor announced a $1 million initiative to catch distracted drivers with “undercover vehicles.”

Under the Driver Violation Point System, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns points to drivers for specified traffic infractions. If a driver accrues eleven or more points in an eighteen-month period, their license could be suspended. They may request a hearing before the DMV if they claim that they were not driving when an offense occurred. They cannot, however, challenge a finding of guilt before the DMV. That can only happen in the courts. The DMV increased the number of points associated with a texting while driving conviction in 2012. It now adds five points to one’s license. Most traffic offenses add three or four points.
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On January 1, 2011, the “Move Over” law was instituted in New York. The law is named in honor of New York State Trooper Robert W. Ambrose, and Onondaga County Sheriff Deputy Glenn M. Searles. Both were killed in the line of duty while their patrol vehicles were stopped responding to an emergency on the side of the road. The “Move Over” law is designed to protect police, fire, and emergency workers responding to calls on the side of the road. The theory is that by moving over, drivers will help other emergency workers get to the scene of a car crash faster.

Under this new statute, drivers are required to move over and slow down when passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped on the shoulder of a road with its emergency lights flashing. If for some reason the driver is unable to move into the next lane (road congestion), the driver must still slow down.

A violation of the “Move Over” law is a moving violation that results in two points on the driver’s license. In addition, there is a fine of up to $275, mandatory court surcharges, and up to 15 days in jail, although this last provision is rarely invoked for this infraction.

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