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Cuomo signs anti-texting while driving law

Photo from WNYC Radio

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that creates new, stiffer penalties for texting-while-driving for teenaged and new drivers. The law will now treat texting as seriously as speeding or reckless driving.

Teenagers just beginning to drive and older new drivers caught texting while driving will now see their licenses revoked for sixty days. If they repeat the offense within a half year- their driving licenses will be taken away for another six months.

Governor Cuomo, who has twin daughters who will be driving soon, says inattention and inexperience at the wheel can be a “death sentence”.

“Those two, three, four, five seconds that you look down to answer the text,” Cuomo said. “That period of inattention is all the time in the world.”

But Cuomo says more importantly, there needs to be a cultural shift in attitudes towards texting or talking on the phone while driving.  He says it wasn’t that long ago when people thought it was harmless to drink alcohol before getting behind the wheel, or to not wear a seat belt.    

“Now it’s unimaginable for people to get into a car and not wear a seatbelt,” the governor said.

And Cuomo says there are now more fatalities and injuries caused by texting and driving than from alcohol consumption before getting behind the wheel.  

Ben Lieberman is very well aware of that fact. Lieberman lost his teenaged son in a car accident caused by texting while driving. He now is Co-Chair of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, where he says he’s working to change attitudes about smart phones.

“There’s something new with this generation,” Lieberman said. “And that’s an addiction to smart phones.”

The law takes effect immediately.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.