new cell phone law in New York State

NYS Cell Phone Tickets Increase From 3 To 5 Points

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On March 31 at a press conference in NYC, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced increased penalties for cell phone use while driving and texting-while-driving. The Governor has informed the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that they must increase the penalties starting June 1, 2013. In addition, the Governor has issued orders to the New York State Police that they must increase enforcement of the cell phone and texting-while-driving ban during the summer of 2013. There will be more troopers on patrol and more checkpoints as well.

Since the beginning of his term, Governor Cuomo been pushing for increased penalties for distracted drivers.  He argues that this behavior puts the lives of many people at risk including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians that may be struck by a distracted driver. In July 2011, a new law went into effect which made cell phone and texting “primary offenses” which means they can be the sole basis for a traffic stop.

new cell phone law in New York State

At that time the number of points was increased from 2 points to 3 points.  Now at 5 points, these tickets will carry the same number of points as Reckless Driving (NY VTL 1212), and Passing a School Bus (NY VTL 1174). The only single violation which carries a greater number of points is a speeding conviction going 21mph over the speed limit and up.

In addition to the increase in points from 3 points to 5 points, the new directive calls for a 60 day license suspension for junior and probationary license holders who are convicted of cell phone or texting while driving.  If they are convicted of another texting or cell phone offense within six months of license restoration, their license will be revoked for 6 months. The same rules apply to junior or probationary license holders who are convicted of speeding, reckless driving, or tailgating.

This can also mean more trouble for DWI repeat offenders. Under an amendment to DMV regulations, getting convicted of a “high-point driving violation” (any violation of 5 or more points) will trigger a lifetime driving record review.  The driver’s license will be revoked if the person is found to be a “dangerous repeat alcohol or drug offender” (either has 5 or more alcohol- or drug-related incidents during his lifetime OR during the past 25 years has 3 or 4 alcohol or drug-related driving incidents plus a serious driving offenses conviction).

Since the 2011 law passed there has been a 234% increase in the number of tickets issued for cell phone and texting while driving in New York State. In addition:

  • In 2011, there were 25,165 car crashes involving distracted driving in New York State, compared to 4,628 caused by driving while intoxicated (DWI).
  • Between 2005 and 2011, there was an approximately 143% increase in cell phone-related crashes in New York State.
  • The number of tickets issued for texting-while-driving (30,166) in New York State in 2012 approached the number of DWI/DWAI arrests (43,954).


The Governor said: “As the father of three teenagers, I know firsthand the importance of instilling safe practices in our young drivers who are developing lifelong habits as they learn to navigate the road…Inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination – one this legislation seeks to deter.”

According to research released at a recent poster session of the Pediatric Academic Societies, texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds which, at 55mph, is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with his eyes closed.

Under the Governor’s direction, DMV will increase the number of points earned against an individual’s driving record upon conviction for texting-while-driving and cell-phone related infractions from the current three points to five points. This is effective tomorrow for all drivers.

DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said, “With the increased use of mobile devices, we have all become more concerned about safety on our highways. I congratulate Governor Cuomo on his continued efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and for putting increased penalties in place…”

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “Distracted drivers will not be tolerated in New York State. Drivers who text or talk on mobile devices while behind the wheel not only take their attention from the road, but also put lives at risk. Our message is clear – motorists who use a cell phone or electronic device while driving will be ticketed.”


License Holders  Cell Phone / Texting – Current Law


 Cell Phone / Texting – New Law

Suspension Revocation Points Suspension Revocation Points
Probationary None None 3 60 days for first conviction 6 months for subsequent conviction within 6 months of license restoration 5
Junior None None 3 60 days for first conviction 60 days for subsequent conviction within 6 months of license restoration 5
All others None None 3 None None 5

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This post was written by Adam Rosenblum

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