New York’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about New York’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

New York’s distracted driving laws generally prohibit all drivers from text messaging and talking on a handheld phone while driving. This article discusses the specifics of what the laws prohibit and the costs of a texting or cellphone ticket.

Talking on the Phone

New York law prohibits all drivers from engaging in a call with a handheld phone while driving a vehicle that’s in motion. And for commercial drivers, the handheld cellphone ban also applies when the vehicle is temporarily stopped for reasons like traffic, stop signs, and red lights.

Engaging in a call. For purposes of the cellphone law, “engaging in a call” means talking into or listening to a handheld mobile phone. Drivers who are caught holding a phone in the immediate proximity to their ear are presumed to have been engaged in a call. However, the law allows drivers to present evidence to establish that—despite having the phone close to their ear—they were not engaged in a phone call.

Exceptions. New York’s cellphone ban doesn’t apply to:

  • calls made or received using hands-free technology
  • communications with emergencies services personnel (including an ambulance, fire department, and police) during an emergency, or
  • emergency services personnel performing official duties.

Penalties. Cellphone violations carry a $50 to $200 fine for a first offense, a $50 to $250 fine for a second offense within 18 months, and a $50 to $450 fine for a third or subsequent offense within 18 months. A cellphone ticket will also add five points to the motorist’s driving record.

Text Messaging and Other Electronic Device Use

For all New York motorists, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle that’s in motion while using any portable electronic device. And for commercial drivers, the portable device use restriction also applies when the vehicle is temporarily stopped for things such as traffic, stop signs, and red lights.

Portable device use. A motorist is deemed to be “using” a portable electronic device if:

  • viewing, taking, or transmitting images
  • playing games
  • performing a command or request to access a webpage for purposes of present or future communication, or
  • composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, saving, or retrieving email, text messages, instant message, or other electronic data.

Motorists who are caught holding a portable electronic device in a “conspicuous manner” are presumed to have been using the device. But motorists are allowed to present evidence to prove otherwise.

Penalties. Texting violations will result in a fine of $50 to $200 for a first offense, $50 to $250 for a second offense within 18 months, and $50 to $450 for a third or subsequent offense within 18 months. A texting ticket will also add five points to the motorist’s driving record.

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