Beginning Nov. 1, texting while driving and the use of other portable electronic devices while behind the wheel will be illegal.
Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday that he signed legislation to ban text-messaging while driving, a practice that has led to deadly automobile accidents involving teens in recent years.
“The risks associated with texting while driving are well documented,” he said in a statement. “As we learn more and more about just how dangerous this practice can be, I urge all New Yorkers to drive with caution and get in the habit of putting their cell phones away while driving to protect their own lives and the lives of others.”
The texting ban is one of 68 bills the governor signed this week. He vetoed 14 bills that would have cost the state more than $5.4 million.
Under the law that prohibits texting while behind the wheel, drivers will only receive fines for using portable electronic devices if they are pulled over for violating another law. The maximum fine is $150.
Seventeen states – not including New York – and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit texting while driving, although several do not take effect until later in the year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Nine states ban the practice for new drivers.
The new law also includes measures aimed at making teens safer drivers. It requires 30 additional supervised driving hours before new drivers can take a road test and reduces from two to one the number of passengers under 21 allowed in a vehicle with a new driver when a supervising adult is not present. Those sections of the law take effect immediately.
The texting-while-driving ban comes eight years after New York prohibited hand-held use of cell phones while driving.
Other bills signed into law by the governor this week include:
* Requiring that all residential dwellings, regardless of construction or sale date, be outfitted with a carbon monoxide detector. Amanda’s Law, as it’s called, is named after Amanda Hansen, a 16-year-old from West Seneca who died Jan. 17, 2009 from carbon monoxide poisoning because of a defective boiler. She was sleeping over at a friend’s house at the time.
The law takes effect in 180 days.
* Requiring that all children under 8 to be in child restraint systems while riding in automobiles. Currently, children 4 through 6 have to be in special booster seats, as are children under 4 who weigh more than 40 pounds. The law takes effect in 90 days.
* Requiring utility corporations, energy-service companies, municipalities, telephone companies and cable television providers to provide large-print versions of billing statements if requested by a consumer.
* Eliminating the use of the term “oriental” in documents used by state agencies, public authorities and municipalities when referring to people of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.
(Source: Elmira Star-Gazette)