The state of New York has made a misguided effort to crack down on distracted drivers.

The state of New York has made a misguided effort to crack down on distracted drivers.

Our New York State government is at it again, calling for tougher penalties for laws already on the books that go largely unenforced at present.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced stiffer penalties for distracted drivers — those who are texting while driving or driving while talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device. Violators will receive five points on their license instead of three.The new law took effect Saturday.

large_litter_453Also last week, the state Senate approved a bill that would double fines for littering on highways and adjoining land. That legislation goes on to the Assembly for further consideration.

Anyone who drives with their eyes open knows both of those laws are largely ignored and unenforced.  It seems like at least every other driver on the road is distracted in some fashion, and our roads are virtual garbage dumps

Here’s a novel idea:  How about we enforce the laws already on the books instead of increasing penalties for laws that no one follows and no one enforces???

You know why they won’t do that???  Money.

It doesn’t cost anything to pass a law that sounds tough and makes it look like they are doing something.  In reality, though, they are accomplishing nothing.  Making littering a more heavily punished offense than drunk driving, when no one is ever charged with littering in the first place, just seems dumb to me.  The same is true of texting while driving.  Seemingly everyone does it – including some of the police who are supposed to enforce it –  but hardly anyone is ever charged with it.

If lawmakers really wanted to change people’s behavior thaey would allocate additional financial resources to our law enforcement agencies for targeted enforcement of these laws – but they won’t – because that costs money.

Here are the details on the two laws:

  • Texting: As I said earlier, starting last Saturday, violators who are talking or texting will get five points on their license, not three. Cuomo is also proposing tougher sanctions for probationary and junior drivers, who would see their licenses suspended for 60 days after the first violation. See news stories here and here.
  • Littering: If enacted, the fine for littering will increase from $350 to $700 for the first offense and from $700 to $1,400 for the second offense. Read more about the proposed law here and here.

Residents of Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers, what do you think of these two laws? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading, and please don’t drive while distracted or litter!


ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062