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Tough New Penalties For Texting And Driving Now In Effect

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York motorists are advised to think twice before texting and driving, as tough new regulations go into effect Saturday in New York State.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced a major crackdown on the practice of texting while driving in New York. The penalty has increased from three to five points off the driver's licenses of any motorists who is caught and ticketed.

The penalty applies to any kind of cell phone activity while driving.

Tough New Penalties For Texting And Driving Now In Effect

While the dangers of texting and driving are well-documented, that has not stopped some people from doing it. Shelly Rome admitted to CBS 2's Janelle Burrell that her cell phone is always within arms reach, even when she's driving.

"People honk at me when I do it, and I get mad, but they're right – I shouldn't be doing it," Rome said. "It's very dangerous. I've had many close calls."

It is indeed dangerous, and action has to be taken, Cuomo said.

"Sometimes you only get one mistake," he said. Sometimes you don't get a second chance."

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.

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 Sanchez on Friday night.

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

"We need to connect the dots and pay more attention to these deadly trends," Lieberman said.

Between 2005 and 2011, distracted driving accidents rose a staggering 143 percent in New York State.

Rome said she will now think twice with the penalties now in effect.

"It wakes you up. I don't want five points on my license," Rome said. "So I guess that's the only way to get people like me to stop texting while driving."

With the penalties in effect, motorists can expect to see police checkpoints for cell phone use across the state.

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