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Cell Phone Use and Texting Rules

NEW YORK STATE'S MOBILE PHONE and PORTABLE ELECTRONIC DEVICE LAWS

New York prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices.

Illegal activity includes holding a portable electronic device and:

  • Talking on a handheld mobile telephone
  • Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving, or retrieving electronic data such as e-mail, text messages, or webpages
  • Viewing, taking, or transmitting images
  • Playing games

The law defines the following terms as:

(a) "Portable electronic device" shall mean any hand-held mobile telephone, as defined by subdivision one of section twelve hundred twenty-five-c of this article, personal digital assistant (PDA), handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.

(b) "Using" shall mean holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.

Exceptions to the Laws

  • When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand.
  • Using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface.
  • Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
  • When the purpose of the phone call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician's office, or an ambulance corps.
  • When operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.


Violation Penalties and Fines — The penalty for a violation of this law shall be 5 driver violation points and a fine. This is a primary law, which means an officer may stop you if you are observed using a hand held device. It is illegal for drivers to use handheld electronic devices while their vehicle is in motion.

  • For offenses committed between October 5, 2011 and May 31, 2013, the violation carried three driver violation points.
  • For offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013, this violation carries five driver violation points.


To learn more, see About the NYS Driver Point System

Fines for violations committed between July 26, 2013 and October 31, 2014 1

Violation

Mininum

Maximum

First offense

$50

$150

Second offense within 18 months

$50

$200

Third or subsequent offense within 18 months

$50

$400

The surcharge for all violations can be up to $93.

Fines for violations committed on or after November 1, 2014

Violation

Mininum

Maximum

First offense

$50

$200

Second offense within 18 months

$50

$250

Third or subsequent offense within 18 months

$50

$450

The surcharge for all violations can be up to $93.

 

Driver violation points

  • for offenses committed between October 5, 2011 and May 31, 2013, this violation carries three driver violation points
  • for offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013, this violation carries five driver violation points

 

Penalties for probationary and junior drivers with a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit

Effective November 1, 2014, the first conviction of a cell phone use or texting violation will result in a suspension of the driver license or permit for 120 days.

A second conviction within six months of the restoration of the license or permit (after the 120 day suspension is terminated) will result in

  • a revocation of at least one year of a probationary license, or
  • a revocation of at least one year for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit


Restrictions for Motor Carriers and Commercial Vehicle Drivers

Effective October 28, 2013

  • a motor carrier must not allow or require their 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, or in the immediate proximity of, 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