ALBANY – With drivers, especially teenagers, apparently not getting the message, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday moved to increase penalties for talking or texting while driving.
Starting Saturday the state will boost the number of penalty points on a license from three to five points for those caught chatting or texting while operating a motor vehicle. The move, done administratively by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, affects drivers of all ages, and could push some drivers closer to the point of having their licenses suspended and endure higher insurance premiums.
Using a hand-held electronic device for any reason – checking emails, texting or reading a map – would be covered by the higher penalties.
The governor also asked legislators to approve a new measure making it easier for the state to suspend or revoke the licenses of those drivers caught using cell phones or other electronic devices while holding a probationary or junior license. It would add cell-phone use to speeding, reckless driving and other infractions that could lead to a 60-day suspension for a first offense by new drivers with a junior or probationary license.
“If you’re foolish enough to disregard your parents, there’s going to be a legal sanction,’’ Cuomo said in a message aimed at young drivers in particular.
The governor said enforcement of the cell phone laws would also be beefed up starting Saturday by the State Police, and he encouraged all local police agencies to join the effort.
The state has been steadily increasing sanctions for using electronic devices while driving.
Cuomo, who spends much time on the road during the week traveling in New York, said he sees the cell phone laws being violated every day. “It’s amazing how chronic and prevalent the activity is,’’ he told reporters at a news conference in Manhattan.
The state said cell phone-related vehicle crashes have risen 143 percent from 2005 to 2011, during which time alcohol-related accidents have dropped 18 percent. Last year, 30,166 texting-while-driving tickets were issued in New York, compared to 43,954 drunk driving arrests.