Thiele: Assembly Votes to Curb Distracted Drivers

Legislation increases penalties for young and new drivers who text while driving

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced that the Assembly passed legislation to improve highway safety by increasing penalties on young and new drivers who text while driving – because inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination (A.7739).

“We have seen the ads on television and read the news stories – tragic accidents where young drivers are killed or kill others while attempting to read or write a text message,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “We have to get the message out that texting while driving is serious and dangerous. I sincerely hope that by increasing penalties and raising public awareness, we can prevent accidents from happening.”

The Assembly’s legislation would increase penalties for texting or using a cell phone while driving on two different categories of permits and licenses, including:

Probationary licenses:

  • first offense is a 60-day license suspension; and
  • second offense, if within six months of getting the license back, is a six-month license revocation.

Junior permits or licenses:

  • first offense is a 60-day license suspension; and
  • second offense, if within six months of getting the permit or license back, is a 60-day permit or license revocation.

These penalties are in line with the current law for probationary or junior license convictions related to speeding, reckless driving or following another vehicle too closely.

This legislation builds on laws enacted earlier this year that increase fines for repeated violations of the cell phone and texting laws by all drivers, and that further restrict the use of cell phones and personal electronic devices by commercial drivers. It also builds on Governor Cuomo’s recent move directing the Department of Motor Vehicles to immediately start imposing five points on the driver’s license of those guilty of texting or using cell phones while driving; this is an increase from three points for a first offense.

Currently, 43 percent of teenage drivers admit that they regularly text while driving, according to research released by the Pediatric Academic Societies. In addition, from 2005-2011, there has been an approximate 143 percent increase in cell phone-related crashes in New York State and from 2011-2012 there was a 234 percent increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving,1 Thiele noted.

“This legislation sends a strong message to our youth – text messaging can and must wait,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “By making the penalties tougher on young drivers just getting behind the wheel, hopefully it will instill in them from the outset that texting while driving will not be tolerated. We have done a lot over the past few decades to get drivers to a point where wearing a seatbelt is second nature, hopefully we can get to a place where putting our phones away while driving will be the norm as well.”