Cuomo On Texting While Driving Bill: Sometimes You Need to Enforce Common Sense

Governor Andrew Cuomo (photo by Kate Hinds)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that strengthens enforcement against drivers who use handheld devices behind the wheel.

The new law makes using electronic devices while driving a primary traffic offense -- meaning that a driver doesn't need to be stopped for another offense in order to be ticketed.  As the governor put it: "If you are seen by a police officer with a device, a handheld device, any flavor, any electronic device, that is illegal."

The penalty for violating the law will be three points and a $150 fine.

The bill also increases the penalty for using cell phones from two to three points on a driver's license.

Thirty-four states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam already make texting while driving a primary violation.

Speaking Tuesday at the Jacob Javits Convention Center with a backdrop of police cars, a highway sign, state troopers, and the family of a texting-while-driving victim, Cuomo said he knew the lure that electronics have, particularly for younger drivers.  He called texting while driving a relatively recent phenomenon - "my generation, we had two cans and a string connected, that was communication for us" -- but added that drivers need to understand how critical it is to pay attention while driving.

He added: "It is common sense -- but sometimes you need law enforcement, and you need laws, to remind society of common sense and enforce common sense. And that's what today is all about."