NEW YORK — New York motorists are about to see the penalty for texting while driving increase from three points to five points against their driving record, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
That would make it harsher than the penalty for driving up to 20mph over the speed limit.
Cuomo said at Manhattan news conference Friday that he is also proposing legislation that would impose tougher sanctions against probationary and junior drivers for texting. Under the proposal, violators' licenses would be suspended for 60 days after their first conviction.
"We want the message to be very clear to young drivers: Don't do it and don't think about doing it," Cuomo said.
The penalties apply to any kind of cellphone activity while driving.
Cuomo said that as the father of three teenage daughters he knows how much young people love their phones, and he worries that they may overestimate their own driving skills.
"The inexperience plus the distraction can be a deadly combination. And that's what we want to stop," Cuomo said.
Ben Lieberman, whose 19-year-old son was killed in a car crash in which the driver was using a cellphone, joined Cuomo at the news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and said drivers "need to worry about the lives that are in their hands and not the cellphone in their hands."
State police will begin stepped-up enforcement of the laws against texting while driving on Saturday, Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said.
Cuomo said the number of cellphone-related car crashes in New York state increased by 143 percent between 2005 and 2011.
He said he spends a lot of time in a car and he sees New Yorkers texting while driving every day.
"It's amazing how chronic and how prevalent it is," Cuomo said.