Galef Applauds Passage of Legislation Increasing Safety Measures on Graduated Drivers’ Licenses and Banning Texting for All Drivers

June 17, 2009

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef strongly advocated for a bill that passed the New York State Assembly today. This legislation requires teenage drivers to have more hours of supervision behind the wheel and will limit the number of teenage passengers in their cars. The bill also bans the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) while driving, including text messaging. The legislation, A.8568-B, co-sponsored by Galef incorporates two bills that she has carried for the past four years.

“The legislation passed today is a step in the right direction to ensure our children are safer drivers and that the roads will be a safer place for all. In the past few years the proliferation of communications devices that serve as phones, cameras, MP3 players, internet access and text messaging all wrapped into one has proven to be both a significant distraction and a serious danger on the road,” said Galef. “In fact, studies show that the drivers who use electronic devices while driving, including text messaging and taking pictures, dramatically increase their chances of being in or causing a traffic accident.”

The legislation includes two parts aimed at helping new drivers focus on their driving to prevent being a danger to themselves and others on the road. This includes reducing the number of non-family passengers under the age of 21 allowed in the car driven by a junior driver who is not accompanied by a specified supervising adult. In addition there would be an increase in the number of hours of supervised driving from the current 20 hours to 50 hours required for a teen with a learner’s permit to qualify for a driver’s license. It also requires that at least 15 of these hours are after sundown. Lastly, the legislation prohibits drivers of all ages from engaging in the often dangerous behavior of using PEDs. This behavior is most commonly found in people who are texting while driving. The bill also bans accessing e-mail, playing games, transmitting images, using pagers, and using a laptop. To enforce this ban, there will be a $150 fine imposed on anyone convicted of such action.

“An automobile can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of an inexperienced driver,” said Galef. “These new safety measures are necessary to save our young teens’ lives as well as to make roadways safer for all motorists across the state. We must also lead by example and stop the unnecessary use of electronics while driving which distract all drivers and cause more collisions.”

A report released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that car accidents are the leading cause of death among 16-19 year olds. In New York State, 279 fatalities of 15-17 year old drivers occurred between 1995 and 2004. Almost 280 passengers of these drivers were killed during this time period. In this eight year span there were also 187 occupants of other vehicles that were killed along with 86 non-motorists, bringing the total of fatalities caused by 15-17 year old drivers to over 800-averaging over 100 per year in New York State.

“I am so pleased to see that legislation that I have fought for is now being passed by the Assembly. We know that there are certain factors that contribute to higher crash rates among teens and adults, including distracting electronic devices, as well as other passengers. The measures provided in this legislation will go a long way to furthering my commitment to keeping New York drivers safe, and limiting the number of automobile crashes every year,” Galef concluded.