National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The month of April has been proclaimed as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.” During the month of April, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) highlights important safety messages via press events, public service announcements (PSAs) and social media posts.
Mobile Phone and Portable Electronic Device Laws
In 2001, New York became the first state in the nation to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. In recognition of the additional dangers posed by the increasing use of cell phones to send and receive text messages, further legislation was enacted in 2009 prohibiting texting while driving. This section of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law also broadly bans uses of portable electronic devices while driving, such as taking photos, accessing the internet, and playing games.
In 2011, Governor Cuomo signed a law that made texting while driving a primary offense and increased the number of driver violation points from 2 to 3. Driver violation points were then further raised from 3 to 5 for offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013.
Distracted Driving Enforcement
In 2017, Governor Cuomo established a statewide crackdown on distracted driving as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The crackdown, called Operation Hang Up, entailed a special enforcement effort to step up patrols and checkpoints targeting drivers on electronic devices.
Preliminary data showed a 918 percent increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York State from 2011 to 2016. While tickets for calls on cell phones continue to decline, the use of smartphones for texting has caused the number of tickets to rise every year since 2011.
The crackdown also featured a video developed by GTSC to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving.
During the April 2017 Operation Hang Up campaign, State Police issued more than 16,000 tickets, including more than 2,000 tickets for distracted driving. The tickets written were a combination of talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting, or using an electronic device while driving.
Every year, law enforcement agencies from across the state are also encouraged to participate in the National Distracted Driving enforcement mobilization termed U Drive. U Text. U Pay.
Awareness Campaigns and Event Participation
GTSC promotes distracted driving awareness via the development of PSAs, billboards, social media posts and variable message signs (VMS). Informational brochures and materials are also distributed to the public at major events throughout the year, including but not limited to the International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, the New York State Fair and the Annual GTSC Highway Safety Symposium.