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Distracted Drivers Could Pay Higher Penalties

USA Today

If New York’s budget is approved by the Assembly, a ticket for distracted driving, including texting or talking without a hands-free device, would carry a minimum $50 fine.

The budget would raise the fees for distracted driving to $150 and $200 on the second offense within 18 months. Three or more infractions would result in a maximum penalty of $400 within 18 months.

"It might not be the best thing for someone to get a $400 ticket," says Steve Pacer, Public Affairs Specialist at AAA Western and Central New York. "But we just hope that would trigger something in their mind to realize that behind the wheel they'll have to keep themselves safe and everyone else safe on the road as well."

Pacer says federal estimates show at least 5,000 people die each year due to distracted driving.

"One small mistake, one look down to send a text message could end a life," Pacer says. "I think that this law would, hopefully, let that train of thought sink in a little bit for everyone."

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety teenagers are the worst offenders of texting while driving.

Monroe County ranked 2nd in New York for the most distracted-while-driving violations. That's from January  to November of 2012 - with police clocking in about 900 tickets.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget later this week.