Paterson Signs into Law Galef’s Legislation Increasing Safety Measures on Graduated Drivers’ Licenses & Banning Text Messaging for Drivers

August 3, 2009

Governor David Paterson signed into law today Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s co-sponsored legislation, which will increase the required number of supervised driving hours for teenage drivers and will limit the number of teenage passengers in their cars. It will also ban the use of text messaging and the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs). The legislation, A.8568-B, incorporates concepts from two bills introduced by Assemblywoman Galef earlier in the year.

“This newly signed law will lead to enhanced security on the roads, as it will ensure greater safety among all drivers, and especially among our children, who need this protection during their most vulnerable years driving. While the recent wave of communications technology has changed the way we live, we must not let it change the way we drive, as study after study has shown the extremely dangerous impact of this combination,” Galef said. “In fact, the risks associated with driving and using hand held technology have been proven equally hazardous as those for drunk driving.”

The law includes two sections aimed to help new drivers focus on their driving in order to prevent greater danger to themselves and others on the road. This includes reducing the number from two to one 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. Additionally, there would be an increase in the number of hours of supervised driving from the current 20 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 at night. Lastly, the legislation prohibits drivers of all ages from engaging in the often dangerous behavior of using portable electronic devices. This behavior is most commonly found in people who are texting while driving. The bill also bans drivers from accessing e-mail, playing games, transmitting images, using pagers, and using laptops. To enforce this ban, a $150 fine will face anyone convicted of such behavior.

“An automobile can be dangerous in the hands of any driver, but especially an inexperienced driver,” said Galef. “These new security measures are necessary to improve teenagers’ safety as well as to make roadways safer for all drivers. We need to increase supervised driving for our newest drivers and end the use of electronic devices while driving, which distracts drivers and leads to many preventable accidents and injuries.”

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 number of fatalities caused by 15-17 year old drivers over 800, an average of 100 per year in New York State.

“I am so thrilled to see that this legislation which I believe in so strongly has been signed into law. We know that there are certain factors that contribute to higher crash rates among teens and adults, including distracting electronic devices, as well as the influence of other passengers. This law will make the state a safer place for all drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”