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Legislature bans texting while driving

SCHUYLER COUNTY–Text messaging while driving will soon be illegal in Schuyler County, but there's some skepticism about how well the law can be enforced.
The county legislature Wednesday (Feb. 11) approved the ban on sending text messages while operating a motor vehicle by a vote of 5-0.
Legislator Dennis Fagan said some of his constituents told him they aren't sure how much of an effort is being made to enforce the existing state law against talking on a cell phone while driving.
"They are concerned about how the (new) law will be enforced," Fagan said.
Hector resident Tim Dunlap said he thinks the law is a waste of time.
"I don't understand how driving behind a person you're going to determine they are texting," he said.
Legislator Del Bleiler said he has discussed enforcement with Sheriff Bill Yessman.
"The sheriff recognizes the difficulty, but if that's the law they will try to enforce it," Bleiler said. "Any step to try to improve the situation is a step in the right direction."
Legislator Glenn Larrison said fatal accidents involving teen drivers who were sending text messages make it imperative for the legislature to act.
"It's something we have to do," Larrison said.
The anti-texting measure takes effect as soon as it is filed with the office of the secretary of state. It provides for a $150 fine for each violation.
In other action Wednesday, the legislature agreed to appropriate $2,870 for witness fees and trial expenses in 2009 in connection with a lawsuit filed against the county in 2007 by the New York office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit, which also names Onondaga, Ontario, Suffolk and Washington counties, accuses the municipalities of failing to provide proper legal services for indigent defendants accused of crimes.  Schuyler County has filed a motion for dismissal of the action, but there has been no ruling on the request.  The lawsuit also names New York state as a defendant. No trial date has been set.
The legislature's next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 9 at the Schuyler County Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

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