Traffic accidents claim thousands of lives across the country each year. And distracted driving is a big force behind those accidents.
Drivers who are distracted are more likely to be involved in an accident. Despite this, many drivers continue to drive while being distracted, especially with smartphones as such a common accessory.
Here’s what you need to know about distracted driving in New York, including what causes it and how to prevent it.
What Does It Mean to Drive Distracted?
A person drives distracted if their attention is pulled from the road. Things such as reading a text, pulling up something on the car’s screen, or otherwise taking your eyes off the road for any reason can lead to accidents due to distraction.
Activities like the following count as being distracted while driving:
- Eating or drinking
- Looking at a map or other navigation device
- Talking with passengers
- Adjusting the temperature or radio
As you can see, many distractions are legal but still hazardous. In New York, the current laws only impact the use of handheld electronics, such as smartphones, while driving. Drivers themselves are the only ones who can work to actively minimize distractions while on the road.
Current NY Distracted Driving Laws
There is a law in New York that seeks to reduce distracted driving. It states that a person must use a hands-free device when on the phone and driving. It also prohibits playing games, texting, or doing anything similar on a handheld device when driving.
Additionally, this law makes it illegal to take, view, or transmit pictures while driving, and it prohibits television screens within the view of the driver.
In New York City, taxi drivers cannot talk on phones, even when using hands-free devices. There are some exceptions to the law, i.e. drivers being able to use electronics built into their car, such as computers on the dashboard. They also can use GPS devices and other similar electronics, as long as it’s in hands-free mode.
Drivers may also use their phones to call 911 in their cars to report an emergency or to contact someone if they are experiencing an emergency.
What About Eating?
Eating does serve as a distraction while driving, but is it illegal to eat and drive in New York? It’s complicated.
There is no law that makes it illegal to drive and eat. However, if you are observed driving erratically, and it’s found that it’s due to eating, then it may fall under the regulations of dangerous driving. Long story short, it can be used against you if you are involved in an accident.
The Penalties for Distracted Driving
If you violate the laws that govern distracted driving in the state, there are penalties. The first time, you may only be asked to pay a fine of up to $200, but a second offense within 18 months can drive the fine up to $250. If you get a third offense, it can go up to $450, and every citation you get will add five points of demerit to your driving record.
You should make sure to put your phone away while driving your car. The fines and possible pain and suffering you may cause someone else just aren’t worth it. Just put it away, and then take it out when you are in a safe place at rest again.