Less than a year into a new statewide ban on texting or talking on a cell phone while driving in New York and already fines are starting to really pile up.

According to the New York State Police more than 118,000 tickets were written for combined cell phone use and texting while driving in the past several months. A closer look shows that more than 111,000 people were arrested for cell phone use and another almost 7,500 people were arrested for texting while driving.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board distracted driving caused by handheld devices is now responsible for more traffic accidents than driving under the influence. The NTSB has called for a nationwide ban on the use of any and all devices by drivers, including hands-free devices which they say pose a similar threat as handheld devices.

New York defensive drivers are unlikely to be among those who have violated the new ban on the use of handheld devices by drivers because they understand the importance of practicing safe driving habits every time they get behind the wheel. For these drivers the decision to use a handheld device never enters their mind because they need all their attention for the road ahead and other drivers, not the person on the other end of their device.

Under New York law, using a mobile phone without a hands-free device or texting while driving is a primary traffic offense. That means police can pull you over if they see you doing either thing. Prior to the law they needed a different reason to pull you over and could only cite you if your distraction had caused the violation. Drivers convicted of the new violation can receive a fine of up to $150 and three points on a driver’s license if convicted.

A trip to traffic school can help get the points off your license, but if you have a serious crash as a result of your distraction, only your insurance company and emergency personnel can help you.

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