As more attention is focused on driver safety and distracted driving in St. Lawrence County and around the state, the penalties for distracted driving violations go up today.
New and increased fines for texting-while-driving or using an electronic handheld device while driving are in effect.
Distracted driving violations that occur from today onward are subject to new minimum fines and higher maximum fines:
· For a first offense, the minimum fine is $50 and maximum fine increases to $150.
· For a second offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $200.
· For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine increases to $400.
These new fines were part of the 2013-14 state budget.
Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state Department of Motor Vehicles to implement tougher penalties for distracted driving for all drivers. On June 1, DMV increased the number of points earned against an individual’s driving record upon conviction for texting-while-driving and cell-phone related infractions from three points to five points.
“Distracted driving has become a frightening epidemic on our roadways, and fines are an important tool to punish and prevent this reckless behavior,” Cuomo said. “Combined with stronger penalties on your license and increased enforcement, these increased fines will send a tough message to all drivers that distracted driving is a serious problem with serious consequences.”
The new law imposes the same penalties on drivers with probationary and junior licenses for texting-while-driving and using a hand-held cell phone that they had received for speeding and reckless driving: 60-day suspensions for first convictions and revocations of 60 days (for junior licenses) or 6 months (for probationary licenses) for subsequent convictions within six months of the time a license is restored after suspension.
This summer, at the governor’s direction, the New York State Police are undertaking a crackdown on distracted driving. The significantly increases enforcement and patrols, particularly through undercover operations using unmarked state police SUVs to catch irresponsible drivers.
For more information on the state’s cell-phone and texting laws, go to http://www.dmv.ny.gov/cellphone.htm