Tougher penalties for distracted drivers in the state budget - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Tougher penalties for distracted drivers in the state budget

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ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York State budget has something in store for distracted drivers caught texting behind the wheel: Larger fines.

245,000 tickets were issued last year in New York for texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.

Pattie Rakvica was rear-ended by a distracted driver traveling 60 miles per hour in 2009. She suffered a brain injury and as a result, still has a speech impairment and difficulty moving her right arm.

"That split second decision that they make can affect someone's life," says Rakvica, who says she supports any law that will stiffen the penalties for distracted driving.

"We were lucky and we walked out the car," says Rakvica. "Unfortunately, some people do not."

Under current law, drivers face a maximum fine of $150 for texting while driving and $100 fine for talking on a cell phone while driving.

Second-time offenders will now face a $200 fine and if you have three or more offenses in 18 months you will be facing a $400 fine.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says his officers often do patrols specifically looking for people abusing the talking and texting laws, but they can be hard to enforce.

"The texting is very dangerous, it's probably more dangerous than being on the phone," says Apple. "You have to see them and you have to catch them. It is hard to enforce, but I'm hopeful with the increased fine that maybe it will be more of a deterrent than anything else."

"The more law enforcement we have dealing with, will have people realize that this is very risky," adds Rakvica.

In addition, you will also receive three points on your license for every time you're caught texting or talking on the phone while driving.

The law will be passed within the state budget.

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