What Are New York's Cell Phone Driving Laws?

Written by: Injured 914

Cell Phone Use is a Major Cause of Distracted Driving

Virtually everyone knows that distracted driving is a primary cause of accidents in New York. While any activity that distracts drivers can have serious consequences, using cell phones is particularly dangerous. Driver distraction factors into 20% of all crashes in the state, yet nearly 28% of New York motorists have admitted that they sometimes or frequently text while driving.

At Injured 914, our attorneys represent victims of serious distracted driving accidents throughout Westchester County, and the rest of New York state. Our award-winning law firm is dedicated to serving those who have suffered injuries through the negligence of others. If you have suffered an injury because of a distracted driver, contact us today at (914) 840-5927 to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your hands, eyes and even your mental attention away from the road. Many distractions, like drinking a beverage or conversing with passengers, are perfectly legal, albeit dangerous to a certain extent. However, using a cell phone or another handheld device while driving presents another level of danger, which is why New York’s distracted driving laws focus on cell phones.

Statistics on Cell Phone Use

Statistics show that in 2018, New York State police issued 4,542 distracted driving citations. Of these, 2,772 were for handheld cell phone use, while 1,770 were for texting while driving. Despite the threat of receiving a ticket, many drivers still admit to using a cell phone when behind the wheel. 

A survey conducted by the New York Department of Transportation polled individuals on their cell phone usage while driving:

  • Never – 38.2%
  • Rarely – 27.9%
  • Sometimes – 22.9%
  • Most of the time – 6.7%
  • Always -- 4.1%

The survey also polled drivers on how often they use a handheld device behind the wheel, with the following results:

  • Never – 36.9%
  • Rarely – 23.3%
  • Sometimes – 14.7%
  • Most of the time – 8.2%
  • Always – 17.0%

Those statistics show that an alarming number of drivers use cell phones when behind the wheel. Texting is especially hazardous as motorists must take their eyes off the road to type.

Current Behind-the-Wheel Cell Phone Laws

Statewide cell phone laws prohibit using a handheld mobile phone or portable electronic device while driving. There are no special rules for young or student drivers. 

Prohibited activities include the following:

  • Text messaging, game playing, sending or reading emails
  • Viewing, taking, or transmitting images or electronic data
  • Taxi drivers in New York City cannot use cell phones, even in hands-free mode

Even holding an electronic device in your hands without using it is illegal. Law enforcement agencies recommend that drivers familiarize themselves with texting zone locations along New York thruways and state highways or pull off to the side of the road if they must use their cellphones. Drivers can send texts when stopped at a red light and may also use a headset for communications when only inserted in one ear.

What are the Exceptions to the Law?

As a driver in New York, you can use electronic devices built into your vehicles, including your onboard infotainment system. You can use GPS, phones, MP3 players and similar devices as long as you use them in hands-free mode. Exceptions to using handheld devices involve calling 911 to report an emergency or to contact a doctor or hospital. Drivers operating authorized emergency vehicles are exempt from the state’s distracted driving laws when using devices while performing their official duties.

Penalties for Using Cellphones While Driving

New York uses primary enforcement, meaning that even if you completely control your vehicle while using your handheld device, a police officer who sees you doing so can still pull you over and issue a citation.

Distracted driving fines are:

  • $50 to $200 for a first offense
  • $50 to $250 for a second offense within 18 months
  • $50 to $450 for a third offense within 18 months

Drivers with learner's permits and intermediate licenses also receive a license or permit suspension for 120 days. For a second offense within six months, the state revokes the license or permit for an entire year.

Additional Penalties

Every violation of New York’s cellphone law adds five points to your driving record, ultimately meaning your vehicle insurance rates will increase. The amount of the increase will depend on your insurance company and previous driving history. Safe driver discounts will also likely disappear.

Have You Been Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident?

If you have been injured in an accident where the other driver was using a cell phone, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury claim. Our premier injury law firm in White Plains, NY, serves clients in Westchester County and beyond. We have recovered many $1 million-plus claims for our clients. Contact us at (914) 618-4579 to schedule a free consultation.

Share This Story

Interested in this topic? Your friends might be too! Consider sharing this story to social media by clicking one of the buttons below.

Helping Injury Victims Get the
Compensation They Deserve

When you’re injured in an accident, it can be hard to know where to turn. You need someone who doesn’t just know the law. You need a lawyer who will fight for you to recover the compensation that you need and deserve. For over 35 years, we have represented accident victims and their families to help them maximize their recoveries.

Call an Attorney
uploadmagnifiercrossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram