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New York law on distracted driving, passengers for junior drivers

Last time, we began looking at the issue of distracted driving and recent research underscoring the extent of the problem among teen drivers. As we noted, states have sought to address the problem not only by passing laws limiting cell phone use among drivers, particularly novice drivers, but also by limiting teen driver’s freedom to have peer passengers in the vehicle with them.

According to, New York prohibits both texting while driving and all handheld use of a cell phone while driving. Both of these laws are primary laws, meaning they can be enforced without a police officer witnessing any other violations. 

New York law is actually stricter than many states, where handheld use of a cell phone is not banned or perhaps is only banned for certain classes of drivers. This means it is still legal for drivers in New York to talk while driving, provided they are using voice-operated system. The fact that it is legal, of course, does not make it safe.

As far as teens and passengers, different restrictions apply to junior driver licenses depending on where you are in the state of New York. In upstate New York, junior drivers may not have any more than one passenger in the daytime hours under the age of 21 unless the passengers are immediate family members or if a parent or guardian is acting as a supervising driver. During nighttime driving hours, the same rules apply except that the only passenger allowed in the front seat is the teen’s supervising driver. These rules are intended to keep teen drivers focused on the task at hand.

They can also serve as a basis for liability in the event of an accident. When a teen driver does cause an accident, it is important for the victim to work with an experienced attorney to seek compensation. In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at this issue.

Source: Department of Motor Vehicles, “Upstate New York junior driver license restrictions,” Accessed June 3, 2016. 

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