"Gray area" in distracted driving laws hits Gov. Cuomo's radar

Road rules unclear when drivers stop and text at traffic lights

ALBANY (WSYR-TV) - Drivers who keep a cell phone nearby, just to get a peek while waiting at red lights, could run into trouble soon.

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to make it illegal to use electronic devices, even if a car isn't moving.

State Trooper Jack Keller says it's a fairly common problem.

"The light goes green and you're waiting and you're waiting and you are trying to figure out why aren't they going. It turns out a lot of times you can see their heads down. They are looking down. They are answering a text or for whatever reason, not paying attention," Keller explains.

Police say losing focus behind the wheel at any time is dangerous. Delays at traffic lights or stop signs disrupt the natural flow of traffic. But, it's hard to prevent.

"It's a gray area within the law," says Troop D Commander Major Francis Coots. "It says 'while the vehicle is in motion'. Some people could make the argument - you are stopped at a stop sign or a stop light,  is your vehicle in motion? I guess technically it is not. So, it's one of the things that we really have to be careful about when I instruct my troopers to enforce the laws."

Governor Cuomo wants legislation to clarify the rules.

A statement from the Department of Motor Vehicles offers more insight:

Governor Cuomo's legislative proposal will enhance highway safety and save lives.  This common sense measure will close a glaring loophole that exists in state law by prohibiting any non-hands free use of a mobile phone or personal electronic device - regardless of whether a driver is stopped at a light or traveling in stop-and-go traffic.   It would not prohibit use when a vehicle is stopped at the side of or off the road.

"You want to make sure that we are in compliance with the spirit of the law and, not only that, but the letter of the law. That's why the Governor is making this proposal to say we need to straighten out the law a little bit, so that law enforcement officers out there don't have that gray area."

The Governor is also proposing a ban on the use of electronic devices by drivers under the age of 18. Though, a timeline for action is unclear.


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