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, as described below. 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.

On November 1, 2014, the following changes to the cell phone/texting laws for drivers with a probationary license, Class DJ, Class MJ or a learner permit take effect (for cell phone and texting violations committed on or after November 1, 2014):

  • Conviction will result in a mandatory 120-day driver license or permit suspension.
  • Subsequent convictions within six months of a license restoration will result in a a revocation of at least one year of a probationary license, junior license or learner permit.

On November 1, 2014, maximum fines for cell phone and/or texting use while driving will increase (for cell phone and texting violations committed on or after November 1, 2014):

  • For a first offense, $50 to $200
  • For a second offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $250
  • For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $450

On October 28, 2013 the following changes to the mobile phone/portable electronic device use law for Commercial Drivers (CDL) take effect:

  • A motor carrier must not allow or require their drivers to use mobile phones/portable electronic devices while driving.
  • A mobile telephone used by a person operating a commercial motor vehicle shall not be deemed a “hands-free mobile telephone” when the driver dials or answers the mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button.
  • Commercial drivers are prohibited from making a phone call or using a portable electronic device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays.
  • An operator of a commercial motor vehicle 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.
  • An operator of a commercial motor vehicle who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while such vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device.

Effective, July 26, 2013 fines for mobile phone/portable electronic device use while driving increased.

  • For a first offense, $50 to $150.
  • For a second offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $200.
  • For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $400.

The surcharge for these violations that occur on or after July 26th is up to $93.

For texting and cell phone violations that occurred before July 26, 2013, the fines were:

Cell phone violation – Up to $100
Texting violation – Up to $100

The surcharge for these violations that occurred before July 26th was up to $85.

On July 1, 2013, the following changes to the cell phone/texting laws for drivers with a probationary license, Class DJ, Class MJ or a learner permit took effect :

  • Conviction will result in a mandatory 60-day driver license or permit suspension.
  • A second such conviction within six months will result in:
    • a revocation of at least 6 months of a probationary license, or
    • a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit.

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