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Gov. Cuomo Announces Fierce Crackdown On Texting While Driving

Directs Department Of Motor Vehicles To Toughen Penalties For All Drivers

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)  — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to make a point when it comes to texting while driving in New York.

Drivers are about to see the penalty — an increase from three to five points off their driver’s licenses.

Cuomo said Friday that the change will go into effect starting Saturday. The penalty applies to any kind of cellphone activity while driving.

“As the father of three teenagers, I know firsthand the importance of instilling safe practices in our young drivers who are developing lifelong habits as they learn to navigate the road,” Cuomo said. “Inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination – one this legislation seeks to deter. We are urging young and inexperienced drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, while putting stronger penalties in place for drivers of all ages who violate the law and put others in danger. No parent should have to experience losing a child at the hands of a text message.”

Cuomo is also proposing legislation that would impose tougher sanctions against probationary and junior drivers for texting.

Under that proposal, violators’ licenses would be suspended for 60 days after their first conviction.

Under current law, probationary and junior licenses are suspended for 60 days for violations such as speeding, reckless driving, or following too closely behind another vehicle. Such licenses are revoked for six months (for probationary licenses) or 60 days (for junior licenses) if there is another violation within six months of the license being restored.

Cuomo’s proposed legislation will impose the same penalties on drivers with probationary and junior licenses for texting-while-driving that they now receive for speeding and reckless driving: 60-day suspensions for first convictions and revocations of 60 days (for junior licenses) or six months (for probationary licenses) for subsequent convictions within six months of the time a license is restored after suspension.

Cuomo said he spends a lot of time in a car and he sees people texting while driving every day. New Yorkers echoed those sentiments.

“Everybody is looking down on their phones. You could be driving down the Hutch or Sprain Brook parkway and no one’s looking in front of them, and lives are lost,” Helene Farrell told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanche on Friday night.

In 2011, Ben Lieberman lost his son, Evan, in an accident that involved a driver who was using a cellphone.

“Drivers need to worry about the lives that are in their hands and not the cellphone that is in their hands. The governor’s actions will ensure that drivers of all ages will carry out that responsibility,” he said.

Young drivers told CBS 2 that they support the legislation.

“You could not only put yourself in harm’s way, but other people,” Melissa Hart, 17, said.

State officials called the behavior unacceptable.

“Distracted drivers will not be tolerated in New York State,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico.

“Drivers who text or talk on mobile devices while behind the wheel not only take their attention from the road, but also put lives at risk. Our message is clear — motorists who use a cellphone or electronic device while driving will be ticketed.”

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)