Cell phone use & texting
What are the penalties for cell phone use, texting or sending email while you operate a vehicle in New York State?
Under New York State law you cannot use a hand-held mobile telephone or send a text or an email while you drive. If you use a hand-held mobile telephone while you drive (except to call 911 or to contact medical, fire or police personnel about an emergency) or use a device to text or send email, you can receive a traffic ticket and be subject to a fine, points on your record and a surcharge.
Conviction of a cell phone use or texting violation will result in points being added to your DMV driving record. If you receive 11 points in an 18 month period, your driver license may be suspended. To learn more, see About the NYS Driver Point System.
Minimum and maximum fines/surcharges
The minimum and maximum fine for violations committed on or after July 26, 2013 are 1
- first offense - the minimum fine is $50 and maximum fine is $150
- second offense committed within 18 months - the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine is $200
- third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months - the minimum fine is $50 and the maximum fine is $400
The surcharge for these violations can be up to $93.
Driver violation points
- for offenses committed between October 5, 2011 and May 31, 2013, this violation carries three driver violation points
- for offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013, this violation carries five driver violation points
Penalties for probationary and junior drivers with a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit
The first conviction of a cell phone use or texting violation will result in a suspension of the driver license or permit for 60 days.
A second conviction within six months will result in
- a revocation of at least 6 months of a probationary license, or
- a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit
Penalties for Motor Carriers and Commercial Vehicle Drivers
Effective October 28, 2013
- a motor carrier must not allow or require their drivers to use cell phones or texting devices while driving
- a mobile telephone used by a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle shall not be deemed a "hands-free mobile telephone" when the driver presses more than a single button to dial or answer the phone
- a commercial vehicle driver is not allowed to make a phone call or use a texting device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays
- a commercial vehicle driver who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is also presumed to be engaged in a call
- a commercial vehicle driver who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device
For more information, see the Distracted Driving page at the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee website.
Before July 26, 2013, the fines were:
- cell phone violation - up to $100
- texting violation - up to $100
The surcharge for violations that occurred before July 26th was up to $85.