N.Y. law sends texting-while-driving tickets soaring

Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:03pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new state law banning driving while texting has helped more than double the number of related traffic tickets, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

In August, the first full month since the law passed, police issued tickets to 1,082 drivers using hand-held devices behind the wheel. That was more than double the number of tickets issued in August of last year. In the first six months of 2011, texting while driving averaged 427 tickets monthly.

"We were serious when this law passed: texting while driving is illegal and the law is being enforced, so don't do it," Cuomo said of the law he signed in July.

Police can now solely stop drivers for using handheld devices while driving, making it a primary traffic offense. The new law also increased the penalty from a two- to a three-point offense, resulting in a fine of up to $150.

Department of Transportation officials released a poll with Consumer Reports magazine in March showing young drivers were more likely to use cell phones while driving and that 30 percent of them recently texted while driving.

In 2009, 16 percent of fatal accidents on U.S. roads were caused by distracted driving, and 20 percent of those injured in car accidents were involved in a crash where distracted driving was at least partly to blame, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

(Reporting by Paula Rogo; Editing by Jerry Norton)