Traffic Court Forum: Points and penalties — A guide to NYS moving...

Traffic Court Forum: Points and penalties — A guide to NYS moving violations

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By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

In last month’s column, we delved into the DMV point penalties for speeding violations in New York State. This month, we will explore the points assessed for other vehicle and traffic moving violations. Understanding these penalties is crucial for all drivers, as accumulating points can lead to higher insurance premiums, fines, and even license suspension. Below is a detailed look at the points assigned for various moving violations in New York State.

High-Point Violations (5 Points)

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is a very serious offense that can obviously endanger the driver and other road users. In New York, a driver can be found guilty of reckless driving for operating a vehicle in a manner that unreasonably interferes with the use of public highways or unreasonably endangers other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. Law enforcement officials have wide discretion in determining what constitutes reckless driving. In order for a reckless driving charge to hold up in court, the prosecutor must prove that the driver was acting in a way that showed a disregard for the safety of others, in a manner that a reasonable person would not have done.

Failure to Stop for School Bus

Failing to stop for a school bus when it is picking up or dropping off children is a significant violation. This rule is strictly enforced to protect the safety of schoolchildren.

Improper Cell Phone Use

Using a cell phone while driving, unless it is hands-free, is deemed to be a significant distraction and is penalized heavily. 

Use of Portable Electronic Device (‘Texting’)

Texting while driving is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. This is why it carries a severe penalty and is differentiated from “Improper Cell Phone Use,” which does not always cause a driver to look down to use their device.

Railroad Crossing Violation

Ignoring railroad crossing signals or attempting to cross when a train approaches clearly poses extreme danger and thus incurs a high-point penalty.

Moderate-Point Violations (3 Points)

Failure to Yield Right-of-Way

Failing to yield the right-of-way often leads to motor vehicle accidents and is taken seriously by traffic enforcement.

Running a Red Light

If a police officer observes a driver running a red light, this may result in a 3-point violation. However, if a driver is photographed by a road camera running a red light and receives a red-light ticket in the mail, this is a no-point violation. Our next column will discuss the reasoning behind this, outlining the various tickets you can receive due to cameras and video recordings.

Disobeying Traffic Control Signal, STOP Sign, or YIELD Sign

Ignoring these fundamental traffic controls is also very hazardous and results in a three-point penalty. And it is worth pointing out that you must completely stop your vehicle or risk a camera violation.

Improper Passing or Changing Lane Unsafely

Unsafe lane changes and improper passing cause many collisions, making them serious enough to carry a 3-point penalty.

Driving Left of Center/Wrong Direction

Driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction is obviously dangerous and penalized accordingly. Many severe injuries or even deaths are caused by this behavior.

Leaving Scene of Property Damage Incident

Leaving the scene of an incident without reporting can complicate legal matters and is thus penalized, even when no one is injured in the accident.

Child Safety Restraint Violation

While ensuring children are properly restrained in vehicles is crucial for their safety, the police give out more summonses for this than you can imagine. Violations here carry a three-point penalty.

Low-Point Violations (2 Points)

Inadequate Brakes (Employer’s Vehicle)

If an employer’s vehicle has inadequate brakes, it incurs a two-point penalty, emphasizing the importance of vehicle maintenance.

Failure to Signal

Not using signals to indicate turns or lane changes often leads to confusion and accidents. You have probably cursed (not out loud, of course) when a driver has done this in front of you on the highway. Take solace in knowing that this can result in a two-point penalty.

Improper Turn

An improper turn can disrupt traffic flow and cause accidents, warranting a two-point penalty.

Tinted Window Violation

Excessively tinted windows can impede visibility and are thus regulated. Violations here result in a two-point penalty.

Most Other Moving Violations

Minor moving violations that don’t fit into other categories typically carry a two-point penalty.

In conclusion, understanding the points associated with traffic violations can help drivers avoid infractions and the subsequent penalties. Always stay aware of traffic laws and drive safely to protect yourself, your passengers, and others on the road. If you find yourself facing a traffic violation, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney to understand your options and potentially mitigate the penalties. Remember, if you incur 11 points in an 18-month period, your driver’s license may be suspended.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.


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