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It's now easier to charge texting drivers

    TRI-COUNTY AREA—Drivers can now be pulled over by police for just texting while driving.
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law last Tuesday, July 12. It makes texting while driving a primary offense. Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike explained texting was previously just a secondary offense, meaning police could not pull a driver over for texting alone; the driver must also be engaged in a primary offense like failure to remain in the correct lane.
    “It should have been a primary offense all along,” said Schuyler Sheriff Bill Yessman.
    According to the legislation, if caught, a driver will face up to a $150 fine and get two points against their license. A driver can be pulled over for “talking into, listening to, dialing, activating, deactivating or initiating any function of a hand-held mobile phone while such vehicle is in motion.” A cell phone safety component will also be added to pre-licensing education and testing. According to the New York State Senate’s justification of this law, “Texting while driving increases the chance of getting into an accident. A person simply cannot drive attentively when searching for the needed letters or symbols for texting.”
    Spike said in the first six months of this year (when texting was still a secondary offense), the sheriff’s department charged three people with texting, in addition to the reason they were pulled over. Yessman said two drivers were charged with texting while driving in Schuyler County during the same six months.
    He added this law will make it easier to pull people over who are engaging in a dangerous activity. However, Yessman said overall it’s hard to spot drivers who are texting.
    He said the best way is to have parked patrol cars watching traffic. Yessman said the county doesn’t have the personnel to do that effectively. He added some young people don’t even need to look at their phones while texting. Yessman said one indicator of texting, like other forms of distracted driving, is if the person is drifting into another lane. He explained the driver is almost acting like a drunk driver when distracted.




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