Thursday, November 13, 2014


Original Story:

ALBANY – New texting-while-driving laws take effect Saturday in New York.

The new laws increase the penalties and fines for drivers found talking or texting while driving.

Also on Saturday, new laws go into place that crack down on drunken drivers, as well as increase penalties for sex-related crimes, assaults and directing a laser point at an airplane. A Westchester County DWI Lawyer represents clients charged with felonies, misdemeanors, violations and DWI.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed for tougher texting laws since taking office in 2011, saying the activity is extraordinary dangerous, particularly among young drivers.

“Driving habits are developed early, and we are sending a message that texting while driving is unsafe, unacceptable and downright dangerous,” Cuomo said in a statement Friday. “There have been far too many avoidable tragedies due to texting while driving, and with these new penalties, we are seeking to change the behavior of young drivers now, and make New York’s roadways safer for all.”

Under the new driving-related laws, first-offense convictions of texting or talking while driving will impose a 120-day license or permit suspension for young drivers under 21 with junior licenses.

Young drivers also will face a one-year license or permit revocation for those who commit a second violation within six months of their license’s or permit’s restoration.

The new law increases the maximum fines for texting and talking while driving. A maximum fine for a first offense will increase from $150 to $200.

For a second offense — committed within 18 months of the previous offense — fines will increase from $200 to $250. A third violation or subsequent violations committed within 18 months will increase from $400 to $450.

The legislation was approved earlier this year by the Legislature as part of the state budget for the fiscal year that started April 1.

Last year, Cuomo and the state Legislature agreed to increase the number of points — from three to five — on a license for a conviction of cellphone use or texting violations. Drivers who receive 11 points within an 18-month period may have their licenses suspended.

Texting tickets have soared in recent years after the state moved to make it a primary offense rather than a secondary offense — so drivers could be pulled over directly for the violation.

The number of tickets jumped 83 percent between 2012 and 2013, to nearly 56,000.

As of July, 19,291 tickets were issued to drivers outside of New York City for texting while driving, compared to 23,808 tickets for all of last year.

Highway-safety advocates praised New York’s efforts.

“It’s encouraging to see the laws being strengthened, particularly on distracted driving,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Adkins said the state should be praised for rest areas on highways called texting zones, which encourage people to pull over if they need to use the phone.

“It’s not surprising that the laws are being strengthened because it’s been a pattern of leadership in New York, and other states look at New York as a leader,” he said.

Monroe County issued 1,593 texting-while-driving tickets this year and gave out 1,996 tickets in 2013.

There are also tougher DWI laws going into effect Saturday.

The new law for driving-related crimes also will increase the penalty for drivers convicted of DWI or DWAI three or more times within 15 years, making the violation a class D felony; drivers could also be fined anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. A Hudson Valley DWI Lawyer represents clients facing DWI charges.

Other laws include new penalties for public lewdness, unlawful surveillance and sexual abuse. One law broadens the charge of “assault in the second degree” to make an assault on a school crossing guard a class D felony.

Another new law creates the offense of “directing a laser at an aircraft in the second degree,” creating misdemeanor and felony charges for the act.

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