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Consequences of Using Your Cell Phone While Driving in New York

Posted in New York Law on October 28, 2021

Consequences of Using Your Cell Phone While Driving in New York

Paying close attention to the road and other motorists is key to avoiding car accidents in New York. Unfortunately, research indicates accidents resulting from distracted driving have become increasingly common in recent years.

The rise of cell phone and smartphone ownership is a major factor contributing to this trend. New York (both the state and city) has responded by passing laws prohibiting the usage of cell phones in cars and other motor vehicles.

The consequences of using a cell phone while driving in New York can vary depending on a range of factors. This overview will explain what you need to know and why obeying the law is critical.

New York City’s Cell Phone Use While Driving Laws

New York law prohibits drivers from using cell phones and similar handheld mobile devices while driving. Specifically, drivers may not:

  • Talk on a handheld mobile device
  • Read, send, or compose text messages
  • Access, browse, transmit, or save various forms of electronic data (such as emails, texts, websites, etc.)
  • Play games
  • Take, view, or send images

There are only rare instances when drivers are permitted to use their handheld mobile devices on the road. For example, if you need to call 911 or a similar emergency service for a valid reason while driving, you may do so.

The Legal Consequences of Using a Cell Phone or Other Handheld Mobile Device While Driving in New York

You will likely be fined if you are caught using a handheld mobile device while behind the wheel in New York. The penalties you may face are:

  • First Offense: Minimum fine of $50, maximum fine of $200
  • Second Offense Within 18 Months of Previous Offense: Minimum fine of $50, maximum fine of $250
  • Third or Subsequent Offense Within 18 Months: Minimum fine of $50, maximum fine of $450

All violations will carry a surcharge that may be as much as $93. Additionally, this offense will add five driver violation points to a driver’s DMV record. A driver’s license may be suspended if they receive 11 points within an 18 month period.

Penalties can also be greater for probationary and junior drivers with a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner’s permit. Such drivers will have their licenses or permits suspended for 120 days if they are caught using a handheld mobile device while driving in New York. After the 120 day period is over, a license or permit may be restored. If a driver is found guilty of a second violation within six months of their license or permit being restored, their license or permit may be revoked for at least one year.

Why You Should Never Use Your Cell Phone While Driving in New York

Legal penalties may deter some from breaking New York’s cell phone usage while driving laws. However, staying safe is the most important reason to refrain from using a mobile device while driving. Even a seemingly minor distraction can significantly increase your chances of being involved in an accident. Stay off your phone to keep yourself and others safe on the road.

Additionally, if you are ever seriously injured in a car accident, New York law allows you to seek compensation from the at-fault driver or their insurer. That said, New York also has a pure comparative fault statute. These rules will reduce your compensation if you contributed to the accident, for instance, by using your cellphone while driving.

For example, suppose a negligent driver hits you after running a red light. Perhaps you were texting when the accident occurred. Although the other driver was negligent, an insurer could argue that you might have been able to avoid the accident if you were paying attention to the road. This factor can impact how much compensation you may recover.

Remember, New York’s cell phone and driving laws were designed to keep you safe. Obey them at all times to avoid various potential consequences.