“Tougher Punishment for Texting While Driving”

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduces legislation that makes talking and texting while driving a felony in certain instances
November 3, 2010
Albany – Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz (51st AD, Brooklyn) was extremely upset upon hearing the news about a horrible crash on Sunday night, September 19, in Midwood, Brooklyn, which involved a 19-year-old female driver plowing her car into a scooter driven by Tian Sheng Lin. The victim was declared brain-dead at Kings County Hospital a short time later. The cause of the accident is being blamed on texting while driving. “This kind of senseless tragic accident would not have happened if the driver had been focused on the road instead of texting. It is time to put a stop to this type of behavior before another life is lost,” said Ortiz.

As a result of this latest incident, Assemblyman Ortiz is introducing legislation that would impose tougher penalties for those responsible for text/cell phone related accidents. Specifically, Ortiz’ bill would allow felony charges to be brought against a driver who is the cause of an accident which results in death or serious injury of an individual because the driver is texting or talking on a cell phone.

Assemblyman Ortiz has long been a champion for banning distractions while driving, having been the first legislator in the country to introduce legislation banning the use of cell phones while driving. His legislation became law in 2001. In 2007, Assemblyman Ortiz introduced legislation to prohibit writing, sending or reading text messages on cell phones while driving. The New York State Legislature passed such a law which banned texting while driving last year and imposes a fine of one hundred and fifty dollars for anyone in violation. However, this penalty does not properly impress the severity of the dangers caused by texting while driving. The fine only applies for secondary offenses. Assemblyman Ortiz is pushing for harsher punishment, making texting while driving a primary offense, and punishable by a felony.

A person simply cannot drive attentively when searching for the needed letters or symbols for texting. Concentration on a text message rather than the road leads to swerving or lane drifting, tailgating, cutting off another driver or hitting another car which may result in fatal accidents. “Each year more and more people are seriously injured or killed on our highways because of the recklessness of inattentive drivers. We have a responsibility to put an end to such senseless accidents and to keep our highways safe. We can achieve this end by enforcing stricter laws which ban talking and texting while driving,” said Ortiz.

Today also marks the second national Distracted Driving Summit, held by the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington DC. Assemblyman Ortiz hopes that the results of the summit can provide law enforcement with nationwide tools to put an end to distracted driving permanently.