THE MORAL DILEMMA
I'm a 21 year old female driving home from work, stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Suddenly, my phone makes a sound. Was it a text? Was it a notification from Facebook? Does my mom want me to pick up dinner on the way home? The possibilities are endless. I'm tempted to retrieve it from the cup holder where it is resting to calm my curiosity. After all, it's not that hard to respond while driving since I'm a quick "texter." Plus, I have a responsibility to keep in touch with my friends and to answer my parents when they try to reach me. I always hear that it is dangerous and against the law to text while driving, but is typing a quick "ok" really an issue?
THE LAW AS OF JULY 26, 2013
Under New York State law you cannot legally use a hand-held mobile telephone to send a text or an email while you drive, except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency.
As of July 26, 2013, the penalties have increased. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive or use a device to text or send email, you can receive a traffic ticket and pay a maximum fine of $150 and mandatory surcharges and fees of up to $85.
More troubling than the monetary aspect is the number of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") points that you will incur for the violation.
DMV has a "point system" in which each summons is assigned a point value. If your driving record accumulates 11 or more points in an 18 month period, you will be called to a DMV hearing at which time your license will be either suspended or revoked.
For example, if you are caught texting while driving, this violation carries 5 points. If you already have been convicted of a 3 point violation within the past 18 months, such as a stop sign ticket, these two violations will trigger a warning letter from DMV. If you should have two prior convictions within 18 months the texting violation will result in the suspension/termination of your license.
For probationary and junior drivers there are even greater penalties. A conviction will result in a mandatory 60‑day driver license or permit suspension.
Furthermore, DMV has a Driver Responsibility Program ("DRP") which assesses a monetary penalty each year, for 3 years, for specific traffic violations. If you receive six points on your driver record during a period of 18 months, the annual assessment is $100. The minimum amount that you must pay each year is the annual assessment. The total assessment for the three years is $300. If you receive more than six points on your driver record during a period of 18 months, the annual assessment is $25 for each point more than the original six points.
As such, between DMV points, fines, surcharges and assessments, as much as you love Mom or want to check out Facebook, do it when the car is stopped and the engine is turned off. Otherwise you may suffer hundreds and hundreds of dollars and fines and associated costs and the possible loss of your driving privileges.
If you receive any traffic summons, please contact a knowledgeable traffic attorney at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, PC to discuss your legal rights in order to prevent your license from being suspended or revoked.
Mr. Rubin acknowledges the valuable assistance of Ally Struzzieri in the preparation of this blog.