I still see it almost every day….a person driving down the road holding their cell phone away from their head while talking with the phone’s speaker option. The belief seems to be that as long as the phone is not at the ear, somehow they are not violating the law. They are wrong.

New York State has two sections in the Vehicle & Traffic Law (VTL) which apply: VTL § 1225-c & d. Read together, these statutes make it clear that using any hand-held electronic device while the vehicle is moving is illegal. Phones are not the only devices banned. GPS, computers (yes…some people try to use them and drive at the same time), electronic games or any other devices are verboten.

These laws make a distinction between private, passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles. Drivers are forbidden to use hand-held devices while their vehicles are “in motion”, but drivers of commercial vehicles are specially directed to refrain from using them even while temporarily stationary due to traffic lights or other delays. There seems to be an allowance for drivers of non-commercial vehicles to use devices while stopped at traffic lights or stopped in traffic.

If you are driving a non-commercial vehicle, beware this trap. It is a great example of just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Imagine you are stopped at a red light. You pick up your iPhone and activate the GPS. Before you can finish activating the function the light turns green. You have to move because there are cars behind you. The temptation and need to use the GPS function is great and you only have one or two more icons to press. So you keep the phone in your hand. That is exactly when the cop will see you and give you one of those nasty 5 point tickets. The safe bet is pull over if you need to use your device.

Distracted driving doesn’t depend upon electronics. In Case 1, my client drove thru a green light and was broadsided by a guy in a pickup truck who ran his red signal. The pickup truck driver had been reading a newspaper which was spread out on the passenger seat. My client was injured in the crash. He recovered and I was able to secure a good settlement for him from the insurance company.

There have been other crashes attributed to drivers applying makeup while in motion, smootching while driving, and too many teens in one car. There is a law about young drivers having more than on passenger, but so far there are none in NYS covering the other two scenarios. Maybe there should be.

Remember that just because you are charged with an offense does not mean you are guilty. In Case 2, my client was traveling on the Northway in the Adirondacks when he was stopped by NYS Trooper. The Trooper stated he had seen him on his cell phone. My client was a lawyer from out of state. Fortunately, he had two passengers as witnesses. His wife and father were in the car and both were lawyers. My client had not been on his cell and told the Trooper as much. He even offered to show the Trooper the phone’s use history to prove it. The Trooper declined the invitation and ticketed him. After I sent the DA three affidavits from the occupants of the car attesting to these facts, he dismissed the ticket. My grateful client made a generous donation to my favorite charity, Food For Life Vrindavan.

Even if you are guilty of using a device while driving, all is not lost. You have the option to try to resolve the ticket thru negotiations with the prosecutor. Failing that, you can go to trial. You would be well served to have an attorney for either choice. The majority of these cases I handle result in substantial reductions and are done thru the mail without the client having to go to court. Of course, past results do not guarantee future ones and no decent and ethical attorney should ever make you a promise as to a result. But in my experience, there is no need to simply roll over and plead to these tickets without negotiating for a reduction.

The first 2 links below will take you to the relevant statutes. The next 2 will take you on a tour of good information an the nasty penalties involved…..5 points per violation, fines, surcharges, and license suspensions. These offenses are considered “serious” by DMV…right up there with the 5 point violation of Reckless Driving (VTL §1212). You’ll be safer if you follow the law. But if you don’t and get caught, or if you are wrongfully accused, contact my office and I’ll do my best to help you.

http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article33.htm?zoom_highlight=1225-c#t1225-c

http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article33.htm?zoom_highlight=1225-c#t1225-d

http://www.safeny.ny.gov/phon-ndx.htm

https://dmv.ny.gov/tickets/cell-phone-use-texting

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