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From the desk of Senator Charles Fuschillo: August 24, 2011

I wanted to inform you that Governor Cuomo has signed legislation I support to make our roads safer by strengthening the state’s law against texting while driving.

The law better enables police officers to enforce the state’s ban on using hand-held electronic devices while driving by elevating the offense from a secondary violation to a primary violation. Officers can now stop and cite drivers solely because they were texting, emailing, viewing webpages, taking pictures, or playing games on a handheld electronic device. Prior to the new law, drivers could only be cited for this violation if another violation, such as speeding, was also being cited.

In addition to the new law, state regulations will also be changed to raise the penalty for using a hand-held device or using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving from two to three points.

Distracted drivers are far more likely to cause car crashes and endanger others on the road. According to AAA, any activity that takes a driver’s attention off the road for more than two seconds can double the risk of a crash.

Strengthening the state’s distracted driving laws will create another incentive for drivers to focus on the road ahead, not the keypad of their phone, when they are behind the wheel.

(Editor’s note: Senator Fuschillo is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.)