New York Roads Get Safer

Assemblyman celebrates passage of statewide ban on text-messaging while driving
July 16, 2009
Albany – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (Brooklyn-51 AD) today announced that A8568-B, a bill sponsored by Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt was passed by the Senate today in extraordinary session. The bill was passed by the State Assembly one month ago and is now on track to be signed into law by Governor Paterson.

This bill, originally a governor’s program bill targeted at ensuring the safety of teen drivers, was amended late in the Assembly session to include a statewide ban on text-messaging while driving. For the past three Assembly Sessions, Ortiz sponsored a bill that would have banned text messaging while driving. As sponsor of the original bill banning the use of handheld cellular phones while driving, Ortiz has promoted this bill as a piece of common sense legislation that required urgent passage.

“Today is a day where we accomplished that which at one point looked impossible. The bill that passed in the Senate today accomplishes the ultimate and needed goal: ban text messaging while driving. I have fought for just such a bill for years and today am proud of what we as a Legislature have accomplished,” said Ortiz.

Legislation banning text messaging while driving has been widely supported by New Yorkers, as well as their elected representatives with a survey showing that 91% of adults believe that texting while driving is as dangerous as driving while drunk. Numerous New Yorkers have lost their lives as a result of distracted driving -- with texting while driving being the culprit in several high profile cases.

This session, Assemblyman Ortiz worked closely with Buffalo area Assemblyman Mark Schroeder as well as parent advocate Kelly Cline to bring attention to this issue and push for such a ban.

“When Governor Paterson signs this bill into law, as I am confident he will, we will have a piece of legislation that represents the culmination of many people’s work. I am thankful for the outpouring of support that this issue has received as well as Mr. Gantt’s attention to the importance of this issue. By including a ban on texting while driving for all drivers, not just teens, Mr. Gantt’s bill has the potential to truly save lives,” said Ortiz.

Prior to passage of this bill, across the state, counties and municipalities have introduced bans on texting while driving, including Suffolk, Westchester, Schenectady, Dutchess, Ulster, Schuyler and Nassau counties. National support for such legislation has also been tremendous with several states considering such a ban.

“Today is a day of victory,” said Ortiz. “We have chosen to put policy over politics and continue serving the people of New York State.