Updated 02/14/2011 06:11 PM
State Adds Points For Drivers Caught Using Cell Phones
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The state is increasing the penalty for using a cell phone while driving.
While it’s been illegal for years, starting Wednesday, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will impose two points on the driving records of anyone found guilty of using a cell phone while behind the wheel.
That's in addition to the $100 fine offenders already face.
Those who get caught texting while driving also face points and fines.
The DMV hopes the laws remind New Yorkers of the dangers of distracted driving.
"We hope it to be a deterrent much in the way that when the seat belt law was first drafted decades ago," said David Sampson, executive deputy commissioner of the DMV. "At first there was a very little compliance with it and now New York States leads the nation with 90 percent seat belt use. We hope we can have the same impact because distracted driving has now become one of the most serious problems on our highways today."
Officials say it was the imbalance between violations for texting while driving versus talking while driving that led to the new, harsher rule.
“If you text while driving it’s a two point violation and a $150 fine while cell phone use was only a $100 fine and no points. So by drafting this new regulation it will make distracted driving laws consistent," Sampson said.
Most motorists who spoke with NY1 say they agree with the harsher penalty because it will encourage drivers to watch the road ahead.
“It's your license. Now it's going on your record and for something silly like talking on the phone, I mean, come on. You gotta drive, you gotta keep your eyes on the road and that’s basically the way you should do it. It's people’s safety," said one driver.
"At some point we have to stop these things just shut up and drive. It's that important," said one auto repair shop owner.
The DMV estimates that one in five crashes in the state is caused by distracted drivers, resulting in 5,000 deaths last year.