Cuomo eyes distracted drivers with tougher laws

June 10, 2011 3:11:42 PM PDT
Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to get tougher on people caught on the cell phone or texting while driving.

The proposed legislation would crack down on drivers caught using devices such as blackberrys, iPhones, i-pads, laptop computers, gaming devices and any other portable device, or talking on a cell phone without a hands free device, while driving.

The bill would impose unprecedented penalties drivers caught using such a device by adding three points on a driver's license.

Governor Cuomo's legislation would also make driving while using any portable electronic device a primary, rather than just a secondary offense, meaning that drivers could be stopped solely if they are found to be using such a device while driving.

"Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road," Governor Cuomo said. "Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians."

Current law makes driving while using a portable electronic device only a secondary offense, which means in order for a person to be ticketed for the offense, the driver must have committed a primary enforcement offense such as speeding, disobeying a traffic signal or other violation. The penalty for a violation of this law is a fine of up to $150.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 16% of fatal accidents in 2009 were due to distracted driving and 20% of people injured during a crash were involved in a crash where distracted driving was reported. Meanwhile, a National Insurance study estimated 20% of all drivers, and 66% of drivers aged 18 to 24, are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel.