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State Lawmaker Touts Tougher Distracted Driving Fines In NY Budget Proposal

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- After reaching a budget deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, New York state lawmakers continue to hammer out details of the proposal, which include some harsher penalties for distracted drivers.

Long Island State Senator Charles Fuschillo said an increased fine would be levied on those talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device.

Under the current law, drivers who talk on a cellphone while driving without a hands-free device face a $100 fine. That penalty would be bumped up to $150.

"When anybody talks on a cell phone or they text the driver, it's the same as driving on a football field for 55 miles an hour while blindfolded. It's a serious offense and individuals are causing crashes. We see them all over our roadways and it has to stop," Fuschillo told 1010 WINS.

The stricter measures are also designed to punish repeat offenders, whether they are texting while driving or using a cell phone without a hands-free device.

The new maximum fines are:

*1st offense: $150 maximum fine

*2nd offense within 18 months: $200 maximum fine

*3 or more offenses within 18 months: $400 maximum fine

"We need to assure that those who are repeat offenders get punished appropriately," Fuschillo said.

Law offenders would also be hit with three penalty points on their driver's license, which is also the case under current law.

The budget proposal also includes harsher penalties for commercial drivers. The new regulations would prohibit commercial drivers from using hand-held electronic devices and talking on a non hands-free cellphone while stopped at traffic light or in a traffic jam.

Commercial drivers who violate a state or local distracted driving law will have their commercial driver's licenses suspended, according to Fuschillo.

Because the number of distracted driving incidents is growing each year. Fuschillo said distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than others who are paying attention to the road.

Share your thoughts on the distracted driving penalties proposed in the state budget in the comments section...

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