(Albany NY) – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), who passed the nation’s first piece of legislation to ban cell phone use by drivers, is still fighting for a more comprehensive law to be in place. Ortiz has introduced legislation which would ban all cell phone use, including head sets and other wireless devices, by: all drivers within the first two years of obtaining a license; all drivers 19 and under; and, all drivers who have a restricted license, until the restriction is lifted.
When Assemblyman Ortiz first began his work to ban cell phone use by drivers in 1996, no one paid much attention to his cause. In 2002, when his law, which banned hand-held cell phones while driving, went into effect, transportation officials finally began to pay more attention to this steadily increasing problem of driver distraction by cell phones and its catastrophic effect. Now, because of the greater awareness and acknowledgement of the problem, more studies have been compiled which show just how dangerous this really is, and to what degree it impairs the driver.
This week, the National Transportation Safety Board placed "banning teenagers from using cell phones or other wireless devices while driving", as one of its national auto safety top priorities, shortly after studies were released which brought attention to the dangers of teen drivers using cell phones. For Assemblyman Ortiz, who has been calling for more stringent laws restricting drivers’ use of cell phones since he passed his first bill 3 years ago, this was no surprise. "The federal government has taken the first step towards ensuring safety on the roads, however it is only the first step, and that has been my message since I started this crusade," said Ortiz.
"New Yorkers are spending more and more time on the roads. This, coupled with the ever increasing amount of cell phone use, especially by inexperienced teenage drivers, has the potential of increasing injuries and deaths due to otherwise avoidable collisions," said Ortiz. "While my first bill banning hand-held phones began dealing with this safety issue, my new legislation to restrict any use by teenage and inexperienced drivers can help to end the unnecessary dangers that remain."