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Cuomo maps crackdown on young drivers texting

This file image shows someone texting while driving.

This file image shows someone texting while driving. (July 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to take away the licenses of young drivers for a year if they are convicted of texting and driving, according to two Cuomo administration officials.

The road safety proposal will be part of Cuomo's State of the State speech Wednesday. The package is aimed at combating chronic drunken and drugged driving as well as texting by young drivers.

The Cuomo administration officials tell Newsday that safety measures in his 2014 legislative agenda will include revoking a license for five years after two convictions for drunken or drugged driving within a three-year span. Three convictions for drunken driving would result in a lifetime loss of license under Cuomo's proposal.

The texting proposal would double the suspension for young drivers, under age 21, convicted of texting while driving from the current six months.

The initiative is the latest by Cuomo on an issue that he has said is particularly close to him as a father. A law he signed last year raised the number of points against a license for a conviction of texting while driving to five, from three. A young driver's license could also be suspended. If a driver gets 10 points from any driving convictions in an 18-month period, his or her license is revoked.

Cuomo has sought to drive the issue home by speaking about his concern over his daughters, who are young drivers and part of a generation that texts frequently.

"[The penalty is] a big hammer if you are a young person," one Cuomo official said on the condition of anonymity. "We're hoping for a deterrent effect, not to yank a bunch of young people's licenses."

The official said the administration was struck by national surveys that found most teenagers thought they could safely text and drive, despite public service announcement blitzes and news reports on fatal accidents involving texting.

"Nothing seems to be working," the official said.

The State Police reported that the number of tickets issued for texting while driving doubled in a year to 28,000 in 2012.

The National Highway Safety Administration reported in 2011 that 9 percent of fatal crashes and 18 percent of crashes with injuries in 2010 were found to be "distraction affected," although not all involved cellphones.

At the State of the State speech, Cuomo also is expected to add New York to the 20 states allowing medical marijuana use.

Cuomo would use administrative powers rather than legislative action to allow a limited number of hospitals to use marijuana to treat certain ailments. The plan was first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

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