Schenectady County

Law forbids texting while driving in Schenectady County

Beginning March 1, Schenectady will become the latest county in the state to ban texting while drivi
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Beginning March 1, Schenectady will become the latest county in the state to ban texting while driving.

The county Legislature Tuesday night approved a local law making it a violation to be sending text via a cellphone while driving. The violation comes with a $150 fine if convicted.

Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, who sponsored the legislation, said the law will make the county’s highways safer. “I think this is an important piece of legislation for Schenectady County,” she said.

The vote was 11-2, with Republicans Jim Buhrmaster, R-Glenville, and Joseph Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, voting against. Republican Angelo Santabarbara, R-Rotterdam, supported the law.

‘over-reaching’

Suhrada criticized Savage, saying she wants to stop the people from texting, “but the reality is that the people want to stop Sue Savage from taxing.”

Suhrada said the Legislature should focus on fixing its severe financial problems rather than embarking on a “sideshow.”

“Let’s do what we are empowered to do, and stop employing stunts and PR tricks to take the focus off the fiscal train wreck we are headed for,” he said.

Suhrada also said the state should pass legislation on text messaging, rather than leaving it up to counties to create a patchwork of laws. “We are over-reaching and should let the state handle this on a statewide basis. We need to concentrate on more important aspects of fiscal responsibility and budgeting so as not to drive our taxpayers into bankruptcy,” he said.

Buhrmaster said he spoke with law enforcement officials about the county law before Tuesday night’s vote. He said they will support it but they also said there are many other distractions in vehicles that are just as bad.

Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, said many state laws, like the helmet law and the cellphone law, began as local measures. “We are raising awareness of a particular issue, and until the state acts, we should,” he said.

Legislator Tony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam, said if the law saves one life, it is worth it.

Sheriff Harry Buffardi said his deputies will enforce the law throughout the county, as they do other traffic laws. County Attorney Chris Gardner said the law allows other law enforcement authorities in the county to write tickets as well. The $150 fine goes to the municipalities where the ticket is written, even if by a deputy, he said.

Other counties with similar laws are Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk. Monroe and Rockland counties are considering a ban.

Categories: Schenectady County

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