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New York Outlaws Truckers From Using Handheld Cellphones At Stoplights & In Traffic Jams

Published November 18, 2013 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
At Scott C. Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney, we want you to focus on getting better – and we’ll handle everything else.

It’s no secret that distracted driving is dangerous – especially when it comes to using handheld cell phones. Common “distracted driving” practices such as making and receiving calls and texting while driving are responsible for thousands of serious car accidents every year. New York recently outlawed truckers from using handheld cellphones at stoplights and in traffic jams.

Multi-tasking doesn’t work while driving. But millions of Americans do just that every day – and commercial truck drivers are no exception. According to a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) entitled The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk, the average driver who is texting takes their eyes off the road for 23 seconds to browse, dial or send a text message. The result? A 23% higher chance of getting into an accident.

New York’s law, which took effect in late October, brings the state into compliance with federal laws that require all states to pass similar restrictions on intrastate trucking by the end of 2014. Here’s a look at the specific prohibitions and penalties of the law:

  • Prohibitions. According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV):
    • A motor carrier must not allow or require its drivers to use cell phones or texting devices while driving.
    • A mobile telephone used by a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle shall not be deemed a “hands-free mobile telephone” when the driver presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone.
    • A commercial vehicle driver is not allowed to make a phone call or use a texting device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays.
    • A commercial vehicle driver who holds a mobile telephone to his or her ear while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is also presumed to be engaged in a call.
    • A commercial vehicle driver who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device.

Commercial drivers can still use hands-free phones and two-way or CB radios.

  • Penalties. Federal penalties for violating the law can be as high as $2,750 for drivers and $11,000 for their employers. Although fines for violating New York’s law aren’t quite that steep, they are significant and could lead to points against your license and suspension. According to the DMV:
    • First offenses result in penalties between $50 and $150.
    • Second offenses committed within 18 months result in penalties between $50 and $200.
    • Third or subsequent offenses committed within 18 months result in penalties between $50 and $400.

A violation also carries five points on your license, and three tickets within 18 months can result in your license being suspended.

If you have suffered a personal injury as a result of an accident involving a large truck, talk to an experienced injury lawyer about your legal rights and determine what cause of action makes sense for you.

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