New York budget proposal includes higher fines for distracted driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver; an additional 387,000 people were injured in distracted driver crashes.

Clearly, distracted driving is a problem. Mobile electronic devices are one of the biggest culprits. In New York, all drivers are currently prohibited from using handheld cell phones while driving. Under a provision included in the proposed New York State Budget, fines for electronic distraction offenses could be increased, and the scope of the cell phone ban could be expanded.

Deal close for stepped up fines, expanded phone restrictions for commercial drivers

Under current New York law, drivers face a $100 maximum fine for a first time offense of talking on a handheld cell phone, and a $150 fine for first time texting. If the new bill is passed, it would increase the fine for using a handheld cell phone behind the wheel to match the $150 fine for texting. A second offense within 18 months would result in a fine of up to $200, while third and subsequent offenses within 18 months would cost drivers up to $400. Currently, drivers cited under the cell phone ban also face three penalty points on their driver's license for each offense, and this would remain the case under the new law.

The distracted driving proposal in the state budget also includes new rules that prohibit commercial drivers from using hand held electronic devices. In addition, the measure makes it clear that commercial drivers may not use a hand held electronic device while stopped at a traffic light or in a traffic jam, and that employers may not require or allow their drivers to use a cell phone or another electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. Commercial drivers who violate a distracted driving law will be subject to a license suspension.

A deal is reportedly close to being made in the legislature over the increased fines for handheld phone use and the expansion of prohibited behavior for commercial drivers in the state budget. There are also several separate distracted driving bills being considered by New York lawmakers, including one that would make New York the first state to ban all cell phone use by drivers, including hands free use.

According to information from the New York State Senate, more than 245,000 tickets for texting or talking on a cell phone while driving were written in the state last year.

Monetary damages available to victims of distracted driving crashes

Distracted driving laws are ultimately meant to make the roads a safer place for everyone. Distracted drivers cause thousands of crashes every year - crashes that cause property damage, injury and even death.

If you were harmed by a distracted driver, or if a family member was killed by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Whether a driver's behavior was against the law under current New York distracted driving regulation or not, if the driver caused an accident by acting irresponsibly behind the wheel, he or she can be held liable for resulting damages.

If distracted driving has impacted your life, get in touch with a New York personal injury attorney today. Your attorney can ensure you get the full compensation to which you are entitled from insurers, the distracted driver and any other party with an obligation to make payment to victims.