By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday will sign into law tougher penalties for drivers caught texting behind the wheel.
The state Legislature last month approved Cuomo's bill that would boost the punishment for texting while driving. In May, Cuomo administratively increased the penalty from three to five points on a license for texting, putting it on par with a speeding ticket.
The new law will add texting while driving to the infractions for probationary and junior licenses that can lead to a suspension for 60 days. The law already allowed for the revocation of licenses for new drivers for violations such as speeding, reckless driving and following too closely to another another vehicle.
Records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles recently showed that the highest number of tickets issued for texting while driving since 2009 were for drivers aged 22 to 30. People aged 26 had the most tickets since the initial law took effect in 2009: about 2,300 tickets.
Cuomo has increased penalties for texting while driving in recent years. It was changed in 2011 from a secondary offense to a primary offense, allowing police to pull someone over directly for it.
Texting-while-driving tickets have soared in recent years in New York, but only 44 percent have led to convictions so far, state records reviewed last month by Gannett's Albany Bureau found.
The review found that a backlog of court cases, the ability to plea down the charges and the difficulty in proving a person was texting and driving has made convictions elusive.