New York Cell Phone Laws and Distracted Driving in NYC


If you think sometimes that your cell phone runs your life, you need to keep in mind that it could mess up your life, too, if you use it while driving. Even if you don’t get in a car accident because you were distracted by texting or chatting on a phone, you could be ticketed in New York City and fined $200 or more.

Don’t use a phone or any electronic device while you’re driving. The National Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the nation’s clearinghouse for car accident statistics, says distracted driving claimed 2,841 lives in 2018 alone. Among those killed: 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists.

Anyone who drives distracted puts themselves and others at risk. If you are seriously injured by someone who just had to answer a text while driving, you may have a right to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, pain and suffering and more.

At David Resnick & Associates, our record as NYC personal injury lawyers includes $60 million recovered for clients in verdicts and settlements. It’s past time for everyone to stop driving while distracted by cell phones. Those who drive distracted and hurt someone should be held accountable. The victims of distracted drivers should be made financially whole.

New York Cell Phone Laws

There are multiple types of distracted driving. Anything that takes your eyes and mind off the task of driving is a distraction— from eating and drinking, to changing the radio station or talking to a passenger or a pet.

“Texting is the most alarming distraction,” the NHTSA says. “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

It’s important for drivers to understand New York’s laws pertaining to cell phones and driving at Vehicle & Traffic Law 1225(c) and VTL 1225(d).

In plain language, the law makes it illegal to use a cell phone or any other portable electronic device while you drive.

Illegal activity includes holding the device and:

  • talking on a phone
  • writing, reading, sending or transmitting, accessing or retrieving, saving, or browsing or scrolling information, such as email, texts, IMs or web pages
  • viewing, taking or transmitting images with or from a camera, including a phone’s camera
  • playing games.

A person who is ticketed for distracted driving may be fined $50 to $200 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second offense within 18 months. The fine is $450 for a third or subsequent offense within 18 months. A surcharge of up to $93 may be added to any ticket.

Distracted drivers who are found guilty will get 5 points added to their driver’s license. A driver who receives 11 points on their license in an 18-month period may have their driving privileges suspended.

This is not new. New York has had distracted driving laws on the books for almost 20 years. New York adopted the nation’s first statewide hand-held phone law, which took effect in November 2001. The state made texting while driving illegal in 2009, and changed it in 2011 to a primary offense, meaning you can be ticketed for that alone instead of just if it causes an accident.

In addition to enacting laws, New York, other state and federal governments and private groups have mounted multiple public service campaigns to alert people—especially young people— about the dangers of texting and other forms of distracted driving. The first big one in the U.S., a graphic anti-texting video, got millions of YouTube views as early as 2009, before most states made texting while driving illegal.

The New York State Police have tried ticketing initiatives like “Operation Hang-Up,” as well as awareness campaigns at events such as the state fair and county fairs. Most recently, New York City has adopted the “Was it Worth It?” public awareness campaign aimed at several types of dangerous driving behavior.

Even with those education and enforcement efforts, New York recorded 87,728 car accidents in 2018 attributed to “Driver Inattention/Distraction.” This was a 54% increase from 57,006 in 2017.

Contact a NYC Car Accident Lawyer

A driver who causes a car accident and injuries while using a cell phone in New York City should be held accountable. In addition to whatever penalties police and prosecutors seek, these dangerous drivers should be made to compensate their victims for serious injuries, property damage, lost income and their pain and suffering.

David Resnick & Associates can help with a distracted driving personal injury claim. Distracted driving accidents are characterized by late braking or the absence of braking. They often involve higher speeds and more serious injuries. As your attorneys, we can obtain the driver’s cell phone records when distracted driving is suspected. The records may prove the driver was on the phone at the time of the crash.

With this evidence in hand, we can pursue a claim for compensation. We will carefully calculate your total costs and losses – past, current and future – related to the accident and your injuries and seek full compensation. There are numerous factors that can affect a car accident victim’s recovery. Our New York City car accident attorneys know how these factors work together to allow us to maximize the compensation our clients receive.

Contact David Resnick & Associates for a free initial evaluation of your case. Call us at (917) 722-1852 or fill out our online contact form. With an experienced NYC car accident attorney by your side, you can hold drivers who insist on endangering people by using cell phones behind the wheel accountable.

Author: David Resnick

Founder of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., a New York personal injury law firm in charge of providing exceptional and personal service to each of our clients in various areas including car accidents, slip and fall, wrongful death, construction accidents, and premises liability. David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care.

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