NORTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Drivers in the Tri-State Area could find themselves facing significant fines if they don’t hang up their cell phones. A new undercover, sting operation has police looking for drivers who talk and text behind the wheel.

Authorities told CBS 2’s Emily Smith on Monday that drivers need to wise up to the dangers that come with distracted driving.

“It appears they’re not getting the message. Last year we lost 3,300 lives across the country,” Cpl. Dennis Kardos of the North Plainfield Police Department said.

Signs displayed around the Tri-State Area warn drivers to put their phones down, and that distracted driving kills. New Jersey drivers currently get slapped with a $130 ticket for distracted driving, while in New York the fine is $160. But a new bill could cause penalties in New Jersey to increase significantly.

“That would increase that to $200 to $400 for a first offense and $600 to $800 plus three points, and a loss of license for a third offense,” explained North Plainfield Police Chief William Porenti.

Still, some are calling the increased penalties “lenient.”

“Your mind comes off the road and your eyes, it’s as bad as drinking and driving,” said Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano.

Officials recommend modifying your illegal behavior by tossing the phone in the glove compartment.

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