Penalties increasing for drivers caught cell phone

February 16, 2011 4:47:27 AM PST
Getting caught using a cell phone while driving just got a whole lot more expensive in New York.

Starting Wednesday, drivers who are nabbed talking or texting face another punishment: two points on their license.

The state DMV is citing statistics that distracted drivers get into more accidents than anyone else. So now, with this new tougher law, you could ultimately end up losing your license.

"They don't catch me yet, so when they catch me, I'm going to learn to stop," Upper West Side resident Evelyn Roman said.

Roman is the kind of driver the new, more severe penalty is targeting - drivers who continue to talk on handheld cell phones behind the wheel, even though it's illegal.

Eyewitness News had no problem finding them, and they weren't ashamed to admit they do it.

"I definitely do," one driver said. "And surf the Web."

Now, anyone caught talking on a handheld phone while driving will get a $100 fine and two points. Until now, only drivers convicted of texting while driving had points added to their license.

Points can lead to more costly insurance and, if enough are accumulated, a suspended license.

"It seemed like the penalties were not severe enough to curb the behavior," said Robert Sinclair, of AAA New York. "With more than 300,000 tickets issued, it's a $100 fine. And there's an 80 percent conviction rate, and people are still doing it to a large degree."

Back in November of 2001, New York became the first state in the nation to crack down on chatty drivers.