New York Vehicle and Traffic Round Up

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It’s been a busy year in New York, when it comes to vehicle and traffic laws and regulations. In many ways the field has been turned upside down by non-legislative, regulatory action relating to relicensing of drivers with a history of alcohol-related offenses. We noted DMV’s new relicensing regulations when they came out, and in a future entry we’ll get into the fall-out for the drivers affected.

The governor and legislature have been active in other areas as well, including changes to ‘anti-cell phone and ‘anti-texting’ laws and regulations; increased surcharges; and ‘Alix’s Law’, an ongoing attempt by the legislature to deter leaving the scene of an accident.

‘Anti-Cell Phone’, ‘Anti-Texting’ Changes

Both the legislative and executive branches have been working to make the world a sadder place for distracted drivers.

By executive fiat (we’re linking to a press release from the governor’s office), Governor Cuomo has increased the penalty for cell-phone use and texting by drivers. It’s now a five-point violation. This is the same number of points as you would receive for a reckless driving conviction. Even if you formerly had a clean record, you would be almost half way to a license suspension; you would be one point away from a $300 driver responsibility assessment.

That’s if you’re an adult. As for probationary drivers and holders of junior licenses, the Legislature has amended Sections 510-b and 510-c of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. If you’re in either of those categories and you’re convicted of cell-phone use or any use of a ‘portable electronic device’ (this includes texting), you get both the points and at least a 60-day suspension.

New York State’s government considers distracted driving, including texting, a very serious problem. Citing the Centers for Disease Control, the governor’s press release notes:

There are three main types of distraction while driving: Visual (taking your eyes off the road); Manual (taking your hands off the wheel); and Cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing). Texting-while-driving involves all three types.

Increased Surcharges

Surcharges for moving violations have now gone up by $8, from $85 to $93. Surcharges, which include ‘crime victim assistance’ fees, are in addition to any fines assessed by the court. Fines and surcharges are set out in Article 45 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Take a look at it sometime when you’re feeling strong.

Even ‘parking on the highway’, the premium resolution when it comes to plea-bargaining a traffic ticket, has acquired an unwelcome companion in the form of a $25 surcharge.

‘Alix’s Law’

Last November we discussed ‘Alix’s Law’, a proposed amendment to New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 600. That statute prohibits leaving the scene of an accident, and there were strident calls to amend it following the acquittal of a drunk driver who had run a skate-boarder (Alix) down and kept going.

It appears that ‘Alix’s Law’ is still working its way through the Legislature and, as we said in our prior entry, the amendment is still both far too broad and too narrow.

Note: A prior version of this entry, published on September 13, 2013, erroneously stated that some changes have been made to the text. In its current form, the only change to the existing law would be the following:

In any prosecution under this paragraph, no person operating a motor vehicle in violation of section eleven hundred ninety-two of this chapter shall be determined not to have known or had cause to know of such incident solely by reason of voluntary intoxication.

This had been based on another version of the proposed statute, found online, but which clearly did not actually reflect the amendment’s current state.