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Texting while driving has been illegal in New York since July 2011 and the state is seeing some significant data on the law's effectiveness.
Over 20,000 tickets were issued in the last year for using a handheld device while driving according to Insurance Journal. Fewer than 5,000 tickets for the same offense were issued the year before the law went into effect.
The increased number of tickets sends a strong message to drivers New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told the public.
Texting while driving was illegal in New York before this law passed but the way the law is phrased makes it easier for police officers to issue a ticket.
The law made texting or using any handheld device while driving a primary offense according to CBS New York. That allows police officers to make a traffic stop and issue a ticket anytime they see a driver texting at the wheel.
Before this, officers could not pull over a car just because the driver was texting. They needed a separate reason to stop the car and could then issue a secondary ticket for using a handheld device while driving.
Making it a primacy offense can make it harder for drivers to fight a ticket since a phone in the driver's hand was the reason for stopping the vehicle rather than being a subsequent observation.
The law also increased the insurance penalty for a texting-while-driving ticket reports Insurance Journal.
Since July 2011 drivers who get caught texting at the wheel get three points on their insurance instead of the previous two.
While the increased insurance points haven't necessarily contributed to the number of tickets issued in the past year, they show that the state is serious about stopping drivers from texting.
Texting while driving is illegal in many states besides New York, but it is not always a primary offense. Still it's a good idea to keep those hands on the wheel, law or no. Distracted driving can result in something much worse than a delayed reply.
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