Texting while driving is an epidemic in this country. Everybody knows it, yet millions of people continue to do this deadly act every time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. If the fear of causing a wreck doesn’t stop people from texting while driving, what will? Perhaps having their driving privileges revoked just might be the ticket.

New York, like 40 other states, bans texting while driving. The state also gives police officers the authority to issue penalties to violators. If a motorist gets caught talking or texting on his or her cellphone enough times it could result in loss of driving privileges after receiving up to 11 points in an 18-month period. Police officers have had this authority for quite some time, but until now it hasn’t stopped most motorists from doing it.

But the interesting news coming out of New York recently is that Governor Andrew Cuomo stressed that one in five accidents in the state stems from distracted driving. As a result Cuomo has been getting serious about distracted driving and has increased the penalties under the DMV’s point system already in place. Violators will face a fine of up to as much as $150 for a first offense and five points on their license for each violation. This is an increase from the existing three point penalty system.

I say it’s about time. New York might now rank as one of the toughest in the nation and I believe other states need to follow suit and issue harsher punishments for distracted driving before more lives are lost. Currently, New York is one of at least 11 states that allows for harsher penalties to motorists who are caught either texting or talking on a handheld cellphone while driving (D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands do as well).

If you ask me, this might be the wake-up call driver’s need across the nation. The fear of losing one’s license because police officers can begin issuing tickets every time they see someone texting while driving just might give people pause. Drivers need to focus on the task at hand, which is keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Currently federal estimates say distraction contributes to 16% of all fatal crashes, causing as many as 5,000 deaths every year. Despite these harsh realities motorists still can’t help, but text and talk on the handheld cellphones. It will also be interesting to see how the insurance companies get involved.

Ironically, the point system has been in place since 2010, but it was only until June that the state upped the ante on drivers. Anyone with a probationary or junior license who is caught texting and driving would have their license suspended for 60 days. After that, a second offense could mean the driver loses his or her license for six months.

It will be interesting to see just how many tickets police issue now and how many drivers stop talking and texting while driving if they think they just might lose their license.

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