County seeks to ban text messaging while driving

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With the New York State Legislature failing to act on a bill to ban text messaging while driving, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman is back with a measure that would ban it in Suffolk. It could be passed by the Suffolk Legislature as early as next week.

The measure, titled “A Local Law to Prohibit Text Messaging While Driving,” would set a $150 fine for each violation.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Mr. Schneiderman said last week about the need for the measure. He first introduced a bill to regulate texting while driving last year, but the legislature put off a decision because the state was considering a ban.

A New York ban on text-messaging-while-driving would have been similar to a law enacted in New Jersey, which took effect there this March. But New York didn’t pass its bill, Mr. Schneiderman noted, so the Montauk Republican has re-introduced his version and is optimistic it will be passed.

Its co-sponsor is Jon Cooper of Lloyd Harbor, the Democratic majority leader who, in 2001, authored the bill that resulted in Suffolk County imposing the first law in the state to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The following year, New York followed with a statewide prohibition.

Also, Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota is supporting his measure, said Mr. Schneiderman.

He said he is confident of passage also because of the “great need” for the measure. He hopes the legislature will approve his bill when it meets on Tuesday, May 13 in Hauppauge, he said.

He added that he hoped New York State would be inspired then to reconsider a state ban.

Mr. Schneiderman got the idea for his bill while making his regular, long drives from his home and office on the East End to the county’s main seat of government in Hauppauge. He said he has seen many people in cars text-messaging.

People using “their BlackBerries and similar devices, typing while driving,” constitute a danger on the road, he asserted. “It’s just not safe!” he maintained. “It is wrong to type and drive.”

In the bill, Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Cooper declare that the Suffolk Legislature “finds and determines that drivers sending text messages while driving are responsible for motor vehicle accidents throughout the country,” and that the practice “inevitably decreases safety on the road, affecting driver reaction time and attention to the surrounding environment.

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