Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
New York is trying a new tactic to stop teens from texting and driving: suspend their licenses after a first offense.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law today enacting the new penalties making the punishment for distracted driving the same as for speeding and reckless driving.
Cuomo said, "We want to establish a behavior pattern right away for young drivers that says we know this is a big part of your life, we know this is an appendage attached to your body. [But] not when you drive the car."
Young motorists will lose their driving privileges for 60 days when caught texting or using a hand-held cell phone behind the wheel. If a teen does it again, they could lose their license for six months.
The new law applies to drivers with learner's permits and probationary or junior licenses.
Distracted driving already draws a fine but young drivers do it anyway, prompting NY legislators to seek more effective deterrents. One survey found 45 percent of students 16 and older texted or emailed while driving in the past 30 days.
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico praised the new law in a statement. "This law will help deter cell phone use which will lead to fewer accidents and will help to save lives,” he said.
In New York, more people are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver than a drunk driver. In 2011, there were more than 25,000 fatal and personal injury crashes involving distracted driving, compared to about 4,600 caused by alcohol-related driving, according to the New York governor's office.
For a chart explaining how the new law will affect different license types, go here.