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In New York State, texting while driving is now a primary offense, a worthwhile change in state law. But not everyone is yet getting the message about the danger of texting while driving. One way to get their attention would be to increase the penalty, which is just a $150 fine and the possibility of three points on a driver’s license.

Hitting an offender’s wallet much harder should give most drivers second thoughts. This is a timely topic, as Monday marked the fifth anniversary of the day that 20-year-old A.J. Larson died in a collision that occurred as he was driving and texting near his West Seneca home.

“Don’t Text While Driving. It’s the Law” was the message appearing on New York State Thruway Authority digital signs across the state earlier this week. It served as a valuable reminder, although it was not necessary for at least one woman.

Larson’s mother, Kelly Cline, misses her son. Instead of grieving in silence, as is her right, she very unselfishly gave her time and passion to work with local elected officials, especially State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, in spreading the message about the dangers of texting while driving.

The campaign eventually led to tougher laws in both Erie County and New York State, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed last year, making texting, or using any hand-held electronic device, a primary traffic offense. Police now can pull over drivers solely for texting, where previously they had to stop a driver for another violation, such as speeding, before ticketing that person for texting.

Texting is just one facet of the growing problem of distracted drivers.

The website distraction.gov says distracted driving also includes using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, and adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.

It’s impossible to eliminate every distraction, but texting while driving is so widespread and dangerous that it is an appropriate target for law enforcement.

Driving while texting has been compared with driving drunk as a major threat to highway safety. Just a few years ago, Car and Driver magazine’s tests proved that point.

Motorists must remember that driving is a privilege that carries enormous responsibility. Tougher penalties for texting while driving would remind drivers of their responsibilities.