Using a hand-held cellphone while driving is against the law in New York. Still, many drivers try to skirt the law, mistakenly believing that they will be safe as long as they don't speed or swerve.
In reality, though, texting while driving, making a phone call without a hands-free device and all other forms of hand-held cellphone use are primary offenses under New York state law. This means that police can pull a driver over for these offenses, even if the driver is obeying all other traffic laws.
This week, police in New York City and throughout the state will be stepping up their anti-cellphone enforcement efforts in another iteration of "Operation Hang Up."
An earlier Operation Hang Up campaign nabbed more than 800 distracted drivers during last year's Thanksgiving holiday. In a 2010 enforcement blitz, police ticketed more than 1,000 drivers for cellphone violations.
New York drivers shouldn't take this issue lightly. A ticket for using a handheld device while driving carries a three-point penalty. In addition to the applicable fines for the traffic violation, these points can cause insurance rates to go up and can put commercial drivers' careers at risk. This is true even if the violation was committed in a private vehicle.
Of course, the risk of getting a ticket isn't the main reason drivers should avoid using cellphones behind the wheel. Some studies show that texting and other forms of distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Distracted drivers who cause an accident that injures another person can face very significant civil and criminal penalties.
Source: CBS New York, "New York State Police to Target Distracted Drivers During Operation Hang Up," April 23, 2012.