Updated 07/12/2011 07:00 PM
Drivers Face Steep Penalties Under New Anti-Texting Law
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Tuesday that allows police to stop drivers for texting while driving. NY1’s Grace Rauh filed the following report.
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Texting or using handheld electronics like cell phones and Blackberries while driving is against the law, and as of Tuesday, it’s enough to get motorists pulled over and ticketed.
“This bill will save lives, period,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed legislation to crack down on drivers using electronics.
The wife and children of a man killed last year by a driver accused of texting were present for the event. The victim's widow, Zhang Xiu Ying, spoke through a translator.
“I think there is nothing that I could do to undo what this woman has done to my husband,” said Ying according to her translator. “However, I think I am very glad this legislation is passed today.
Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say 16 percent of deadly accidents in 2009 were linked to distracted driving.
“You look down for one second and it is unforgiving,” said Cuomo.
There's no question the problem is widespread and threatens to get worse as more young people, who grew up sending text messages, get their drivers licenses and hit the road.
Cuomo is teaching his two teenage daughters how to drive. He said they've shown him just how hard it can be to let go of the electronics.
“If their thumbs aren't moving, they don't know if they're alive,” said the governor. “And they get in the car and that device bings and bongs and vibrates or whatever it does, and you can see that they have to answer that device now.”
The new legislation takes effect immediately. Anyone using a handheld electronic device while driving can be pulled over and will be subject to a three-point penalty on their license and a fine of up to $150.
Previously, drivers texting or talking on the phone without a hands-free device could only be pulled over if they had committed another offense. Cuomo said the law will be aggressively enforced.