Texting While Driving Ban Approved By State Senate

08/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

ALBANY (AP) - The New York Senate voted Thursday to outlaw using portable electronic devices to text, play games or surf the Web while driving.

The Assembly had approved the measure earlier. It sets fines up to $150 for using handheld devices or laptops to send text messages or read, view or transmit images or data while a vehicle is moving. Gov. David Paterson is expected to sign it.

"This is a long-overdue safety measure for New York," said sponsor Sen. Martin Dilan, D-Brooklyn, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. "Texting and burgeoning technologies continue to pose serious, and sometimes fatal, distractions to drivers of all ages."

Fines could be imposed only as a secondary offense after a driver is pulled over for breaking another law. It's already illegal in the state to talk on a cell phone while driving.

Kelly Cline, whose son A.J. Larson died in a car crash Dec. 3, 2007, at the entrance to their West Seneca neighborhood in western New York, lobbied for the measure. Police determined from phone records that he was text messaging at the time, she said.

"It's horrible," Cline said Thursday. "I needed something good to come out of that."

Meanwhile, senators passed dozens of other bills Thursday and early Friday but struggled to finish for the summer, still seeking agreement on legislation to reinstate mayoral control of New York City schools.

The law that gave the mayor authority over the city's schools has been praised for improving performance over the past seven years, but it lapsed last month.

The Senate rejected an alternative that would establish an expanded city education board with 18 members but only eight chosen by the mayor.

The 40-15 vote early Friday showed divisions among downstate Democrats. Republicans back the Assembly-passed measure that would reinstate Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg's school control that expired last month.

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