The drawn-out drama over a statewide New York ban on text messaging while driving could be headed for a happy ending.
The New York Assembly on June 17 approved a bill that bans texting while on the road. Assembly Bill 8568 also places more restrictions on teen drivers. Violations would bring a $150 fine.
“I’m optimistic that we will get it done as soon as the Senate reconvenes,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, referring to a leadership battle that has paralyzed the upper legislative body. Ortiz (pictured) saw his stalled text-messaging legislation get new life as it was incorporated into A8568.
Under the bill, banned activities related to handheld electronic devices include reading or sending text messages, sending or receiving images, surfing the Net and playing video games.
The bill was spearheaded by Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gantt, D-Rochester, who has been widely cited as an impediment to a New York text messaging ban. New York has enforced a statewide ban on drivers’ use of handheld cell phones since 2001.
In the absence of action from Albany, many cities and counties in New York have adopted their own bans on text messaging while behind the wheel. (View the New York local texting laws.) The plan is to continue these local bans until Nov. 1, when the state law would supersede them.
Gantt infuriated legislators a few weeks ago as he refused to meet with a mother whose son died as he was texting and driving. New York has suffered a string of tragic accidents linked to teenagers texting while driving.