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New York drivers who text behind the wheel are more likely now than ever to receive a ticket. An increased focus from police against the traffic violation, enhanced laws and more stringent penalties contributed to an uptick in tickets issued for the infraction.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in January to increase the suspension of licenses from six months to one year for people under 21 caught texting-while-driving. The governor urged "continued vigilance" from law enforcement to combat the problem.

If the legislature approves Cuomo's proposal, New York will have the strictest texting-while-driving penalties in the country.

The new laws and initiatives have caused a sharp uptick in tickets issued to drivers caught texting behind the wheel. In 2012, police issued approximately 30,000 citations for the infraction. That number climbed to about 55,000 last year, a leap of 82 percent. The increase was even greater outside New York City -- 89 percent.

One New York state trooper indicated that younger drivers are more likely to flout the law and attempt to text. There have been numerous fatalities across the state where teens attempted to text while driving. Some occurred in Westchester and near Buffalo and Rochester.

The sheriff of Broome County and other sheriffs around the region are using state funds from distracted-driving initiatives to combat the unsafe practice and are driving tall SUVs to pull alongside drivers suspected of texting. They also are conducting stakeouts from vantage points above the highways to spot infractions.

A Westchester County Police Department spokesman commented that while talking on cellphones while driving is distracting, it's more dangerous to text while driving because typing the text requires drivers' eyes to leave the highway.

Although the conviction rate has increased for those accused of the traffic violation, it's not a foregone conclusion that those ticketed will be convicted. For 2012, only 66 percent of those ticketed were convicted, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

Source:, "Sharp rise in texting while driving tickets in NY State in 2013" Dave McKinley, Jan. 31, 2014

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