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New York Increases Penalties For Teens Caught Texting While Driving

Those Who Violate Law Face 60-Day Suspension For First Offense
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in Manhattan, signs a law increasing penalties for texting while driving - July 1, 2013 (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in Manhattan, signs a law increasing penalties for texting while driving – July 1, 2013 (credit: Marla Diamond / WCBS 880)

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) –Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation creating tougher penalties for teens caught texting-while-driving.

The legislation approved by the Senate and Assembly applies to drivers with permits and probationary or junior licenses.

“Today’s new law sends a powerful message to our young and new drivers that texting-while-driving will not be tolerated here in New York State,” Cuomo said. “Statistic after statistic shows that texting-while-driving is a chronic problem in our society, particularly among teenagers, and it will only get worse if we do not take action to prevent this deadly behavior.”

Those caught texting or using a hand-held cell phone on the road now face a 60-day suspension for a first offense.

A second offense within six months will revoke a probationary license for six months and a junior license for 60 days.

Sponsors of the legislation cited a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control showing 45 percent of students 16 and older texted or emailed while driving in the previous 30 days.

“The obsession and addiction of using cell phones in cars endangers the lives and safety of every driver on the road; it has to stop,” St. Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. said in a statement. “This new law will reinforce the message that distracted driving is serious and dangerous and that a driver’s focus should be on the road, not their cell phone, when they are behind the wheel.”

On hand to witness the signing was Ben Lieberman of Chappaqua.

His 19-year-old son Evan was a passenger in a car traveling to his summer job at Woodbury Common in June of 2011. That was when the teen driver of the car, who was texting, lost control. It cost Evan his life.

“It was a very windy country road and the driver crossed a double yellow line and went head on into a Jeep Wrangler,” Lieberman told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond. “When you’re a teenager and you’re a driver, you feel like you’re invincible, you’re fearless and you’re inexperienced.”

“We got a long fight, but it’s an important fight,” Lieberman said of the new penalties. “We’ll send a loud and clear message that taking your eyes off the road to check your phone is unsafe and puts others at risk.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a non-distracted driver.

New York reported the number of cell phone-related crashes more than doubled from 2005 to 2011.

Cuomo said the new law will make drivers “think twice before taking their eyes off the road to answer a message on their phone.”

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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.)