Well, its now official. New York’s ban on texting while driving went into effect on November 1, 2009. You can be sure that law enforcement officers all over the state will be aggressively enforcing the law to let drivers know they are taking it seriously. You can read Attorney Jim Reeds previous article on this new law here.
The question is, how can they enforce it? The problem with this law is that an officer is not allowed to pull you over JUST for texting while driving. They have to pull you over for something else in order to issue the ticket. This means they will be looking for any reason to stop you if they suspect you are texting while driving. Have a broken tail light? Something hanging from your rear view mirror? How about a sticker in your back window? Any of these could give the officer all the reason he needs to stop your vehicle and issue you a ticket if you are texting while driving.
The problem for the officers attempting to enforce this law will be determining whether someone is actually texting or not. Enforcing the ban on the use of hand held cell phones was easy. If the officer saw you with a cellphone in your hand held up to your ear you were guilty. But texting is different. People don’t hold their cell phones up by their ear while texting. It is usually done with the cell phone in or near your lap, where the officer can’t see it.
I foresee two different scenarios in which these tickets will be issued. First will be if an officer sees you driving down the road with your eyes pointed down and a hand in your lap. This will cause the officer to be suspicious, and he or she will find a reason to pull you over. Once they do, they will approach the car quickly, looking for the cell phone. Whether they see the phone or not, they may ask you whether you were texting while driving, and may even ask to see your phone in order to check for the time of the last text. The second possible scenario is when an officer sees a vehicle operating erratically, swerving within its lane or even going on to the shoulder or crossing into the opposing lane. The officer will pull you over for sure, but won’t need any other reason but your erratic operation to do so. When he approaches the car, the officer won’t know whether to suspect intoxication or texting, but the officer will understandably treat the stop as a serious event. The officer will be looking around your car and asking questions to determine why you were operating the car in that fashion. Don’t be surprised if the officer is less than friendly in this situation, as he or she won’t know what sort of situation they are dealing with, and will be cautious.
The best advice I can give people is don’t text and drive, its as dangerous as drinking and driving. If you must return a text, pull over to do so. Or you can do what people did before texting became prevalent – call the person you want to talk to. Just make sure you use a hands free device like a blue tooth!
Thanks for reading,
Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Personal Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901