Suffolk to ban texting while driving?

May 14, 2008 1:37:31 PM PDT
There is yet another crackdown on text messaging while driving. This time, it's happening on Long Island, in Suffolk County. The Legislature is voting to make it illegal to send text messages while behind the wheel. If county executive Steve Levy signs the bill, and drivers are caught texting, the fine is $150.

Long Island reporter Emily Smith has more.

Most anyone who has a BlackBerry will tell you it's downright addictive.

"I don't even need to look at the keyboard," Jeff McCue said. "I have them memorized, because I do it so often."

McCue is a self-admitted DWT offender. That is, driving while texting.

"I will probably do it in five minutes from now," he said.

But Legislator Jay Schneiderman proposed a county-wide texting ban that passed Tuesday night, making texting while driving a crime in Suffolk County. It is already illegal in New York state to talk on a handheld phone. This rule would be in addition to that, on the county level.

"I couldn't think of a more dangerous activity, and we have finally sent the message to drivers in Suffolk County," Schneiderman said. "It's not going to be acceptable to drive and text message."

But critics want to know why other distractions aren't included, saying driving while texting is just one issue. They point out that people do everything from reading the paper to doing their makeup while driving.

"If you can't have two hands on the wheel, it should be stopped," resident David Hines said.

Still, chances are, if you have a car and you have a BlackBerry, you;re guilty of driving while texting, even Schneiderman.

"I have tried," he said. "And I've almost gotten into accidents."

Whether you think it's right or wrong, texting and driving is expected to be signed within 30 days by the county executive. It could be illegal by October on Suffolk roadways.

It is already banned in several states, including New Jersey and Washington state.

"It won't stop me, but I'm sure will deter others," McCue said.

If you don't want to abide by the new rule, get ready to pay if caught. That one text message will cost you $150.