Contributory Negligence

NYC Distracted Driving Laws

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Distracted driving is a dangerous affair, but it’s also one of the easiest problems to combat and correct. The state of New York, together with others have joined in the fight against distracted driving by setting up enforceable NYC distracted driving laws. The state has imposed specific bans on devices that have proven to cause the greatest distractions when driving.

According to various studies, distracted driving is considered to be one of the fastest growing dangers on the roads today. Whether the accidents result from driver negligence or external factors, the number of accidents is increasing every day due to distractions while driving. Newer studies show that drivers often overestimate their ability to multitask while they’re driving. A survey carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that motorists who engaged in secondary tasks such as texting or talking on their phone are 2-3 times more likely to be involved in an accident and those who are distracted or look away from the road for more than 2 seconds double their risk of crashing. Nonetheless, it’s critical to understand some of the most common distractions faced by drivers when on the road.

Common Distractions

Distractions while driving come in various forms including personal, internal and external distractions.
Personal distractions are those that relate directly or are caused by the driver. Some examples include the effects of drugs and or alcohol, writing, reading, using electric devices or daydreaming.
Internal distractions result from other passengers, objects or animals within the vehicle.
External distractions emanate from elements outside the car such as other motorists and the weather.


According to the NHTSA, more than 78% of crashes in the state of New York result from driver inattention. According to, the use of cell phones and electronic devices has become one of the most prevalent forms of distraction. In an attempt to deal with the issue and minimize the number of accidents on the road, the state passed a cell phone law that reflects the severity of the matter.

New York cell phone law

The state of New York prohibits the use of any hand-held cellular devices while behind the wheel. Illegal activity includes:
Taking on a handheld mobile device
Composing, reading, sending, saving, transmitting, saving, browsing or retrieving electronic data such as text messages, email or web pages.
Playing games (Pokemon Go is a very dangerous thing to do while driving).
Taking, viewing or transmitting images

Stricter NYC distracted driving laws have been put into effect to deal with the issue of distracted driving. According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, anyone found in violation of this law will be issued a traffic violation carrying a penalty of up to $200 increased from 150; a second offence within 18 months will incur a fine of up to $250; and a third or subsequent offence will incur a fine of up to $450. Also, there will be points assessed to the offender’s driving license and driving record. Receiving 11 points within an 18-month period could result in the suspension of your driver license.

According to New York Law, there are very specific definitions of what constitutes a handheld device. A handheld device can be a mobile phone, laptop, video game console, pager, personal digital assistant (PDA) or any other portable communications or computing device. When you have any of the mentioned devices in your vehicle you are not allowed to use then in any way, expect in explicitly mentioned situations.


Drivers will not incur any penalties if they are using an electronic device that is built into the vehicle such as dashboard computer, nor will they be fined or penalized for using a handheld device that is attached to the vehicle. This can include mp3 players, mobile phones, GPS devices among others, as long as the driver is not holding the device in his/her hand.

However, the law allows drivers to use their mobile phone in hand when calling to report an emergency on the road, or to contact their hospital or physician in case of an emergency.

Texting While Driving

Although New York State highway signs mark areas where it’s safe to text, there is a growing concern that such measures and efforts have not been particularly effective at dealing with the issue of texting while driving. Several states including New York have employed an array of tactics to persuade drivers to put down their phones while driving yet the problem appears to be getting worse. Mobile game using augmented reality like Pokemon Go are causing a noticeable surge in collisions.


According to, Americans confess that they are still using their phones while driving, as well as taking selfies and making social media posts. Road fatalities, which had been on a downward trend, are now rising sharply by up to about eight percent in the previous year. Part of the reason for the increase is that people are driving more, but still, distracted driving is on the increase.

An average of six teens die a day from car crash injuries, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers are even higher as many teenage accidents go unreported. The state of New York has set up structures to address this problem, especially because technology has taken over teenage lives, and more teenagers are using their phones as they drive.

Although some analysts believe that passengers, in the case of teenagers; peers and friends, can be a greater threat than cellphones. But still, phones are a huge problem. Teens prevalence for using their electronic devices while driving is higher than other age groups.

Under the law, newly licensed motorist convicted on texting while on the wheel will have their license revoked for 120 days on the first offense, and revoked for a year if subsequently found guilty of the same violation within six months of getting back their license.


New York lawmakers are even considering a new device referred to as a Textalyzer. The device would be given to police officers who, upon arriving at a crash site could ask for the phones of any drivers involved in the accident and use the Textalyzer to check for any recent activity on the phone. The technology could be used to determine whether a driver has used the phone to do anything that’s forbidden under NYC distracted driving laws.