The Suffolk County Legislature passed a bill this week authored by Jay Schneiderman of Montauk that would ban text-messaging while driving, A spokesperson for County Executive Steve Levy said Mr. Levy plans to sign the measure into law.
“This is a huge success for safety on our roadways,” Mr. Schneiderman said after the legislature passed the measure by a 15-1 vote at a meeting Tuesday in Hauppauge. “This ground-breaking law continues the long tradition of Suffolk County taking the lead in adopting innovative and important legislation that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”
There was no discussion or debate before the vote. Mr. Schneiderman has called the proposal “a no-brainer.” He first introduced the bill last year but the legislature postponed voting because the state was considering a similar ban, which would have paralleled a law in neighboring New Jersey that took effect this March.
New York lawmakers didn’t act on their version, so Mr. Schneiderman re-introduced his measure this year. It was co-sponsored by Jon Cooper of Lloyd Harbor, the Democratic majority leader of the legislature who in 2001 authored a first-in-the-state bill banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in Suffolk. The following year, New York followed up with a statewide prohibition.
Mr. Schneiderman said he hopes passage of the county law will prompt the state to move on its own.
Mark Smith, deputy communications director to Mr. Levy, said Mr. Levy “is for it and will sign it.”
The proposed law sets a $150 fine for each violation.
The death of a friend in a “car accident related to text-messaging” caused Mr. Schneiderman to look “into the legality of driving while texting,” a statement issued by his office said. In his research, Mr. Schneiderman “came to believe that the texting was far more dangerous than simply chatting on a cell phone.”
“Even with electronic shorthand, people can become so focused on writing the message that their ability to concentrate on the road is severely impaired,” the lawmaker was quoted in his press release as saying.