Ny Budget Includes Tougher Texting Laws For New Young Drivers

04.03.14 | Sarah Harnisch

Tougher texting-while-driving penalties for teenaged and new drivers were included in this year’s state budget agreement, while harsher penalties for driving while intoxicated were dropped.

In his budget proposal in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a one-year suspension for a texting-while-driving conviction for a driver under the age of 21. For drivers of any age who were convicted of a third drunken or drugged driving charge, Cuomo proposed a permanent revocation of their licenses.

Under the state’s new $137.9 billion budget, which was passed by lawmakers Monday, drivers who are under the age of 18 or have a probationary license will see their driving rights suspended for 120 days on a first texting conviction and a year on the second one. But Cuomo’s call for tougher DWI penalties was dropped from the final deal.

In a statement, Cuomo said the lengthier texting suspensions will keep younger drivers from picking up a bad habit. “These new reforms continue the work we started to crack down on texting while driving and, by ensuring that our newest and least experienced drivers do not pick up this dangerous habit, we can make New York’s roads safer, avoiding needless tragedy,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo has successfully pushed for stricter distracted-driving penalties since taking office in 2011, when he and lawmakers changed the state’s texting-while-driving ban from a secondary to a primary offense. That allowed police officers to pull over drivers specifically for texting, instead of requiring them to be pulled over for a separate offense to issue a ticket.

According the state Department Motor Vehicles, in 2013 there were 55,130 texting-while-driving tickets issued in the state, up almost 82 percent from the previous year.