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State Law Takes Effect For Higher Fines For Texting While Driving

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Drivers now have more reason to put down their cellphones, as the state is raising the maximum fine for using a hand-held electronic device behind the wheel.

The old maximum fine was $100, but now a first offense will result in a fine ranging from $50 to $150.

The fine for a second offense within 18 months will range from $50 to $200.

A third offense within 18 months results will result in a fine ranging from $50 to $400.

These traffic tickets will also have a mandatory, additional surcharge.

Drivers will also get five points on their license for each violation. Illegal activities include talking, texting, taking pictures and playing games.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, a license can be revoked after a driver racks up 11 points in an 18-month period.

Drivers with two offenses of texting while driving and any other driving infraction will have to be off the road for at least 30 days.

Drivers may still use a hands-free device to make phone calls.

While some professional drivers said with NY1 hesitation about the new fines, other New Yorkers thought the changed penalties are appropriate.

"You're talking about more than $100 and more than $120, it's too much, especially here in New York City," said a taxi cab driver. "And the police do not have mercy. It's a problem."

"I agree with the new law, because it's for safety," said a New Yorker. "People are getting killed, people are not paying attention. You could just pull over if you want to text someone. You can pull over to the side and text, I don't think it's necessary to drive while texting."

"Until there's a strong deterrent and people have to face serious consequences, they're going to continue to do it. I know that because I was a passenger when pregnant in a car with a friend of mine who picked up her phone to do so and I said, 'Are you crazy? I'm pregnant!'" said another New Yorker. "So I think there has to be an extreme consequence, otherwise it just continues."

Exceptions will also be made for drivers using their phone to call about an emergency.

State Drunk Driving Law Becomes Even Tougher

Drunk drivers will also face tougher penalties under a new bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo today.

The new measure strengthens Leandra's Law, which makes it a felony to drive drunk with children in the car.

The law also requires anyone convicted of drunk driving to put an ignition interlock in their car.

A loophole in the original bill allowed drunk drivers to get around that by lying about owning a car.

The new bill says convicted drunk drivers will have to state under oath that they do not own a car, and will face perjury charges if they are caught lying.

Drunk drivers who do not install the interlock will also face a minimum one-year suspension of their license, up from the current six months.

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