New York cracks down on teen drivers who text

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - New York has introduced stiff new penalties for teenagers who send text messages while driving, saying the measures are necessary to tackle a "deadly" problem.

Under a law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, drivers under the age of 18 will have their licences suspended for a first offence of sending SMS messages while driving.

The 60-day driving suspension will also apply to teenagers caught using mobile phones while behind the wheel. "Statistic after statistic shows that texting-while-driving is a chronic problem in our society, particularly among teenagers, and it will only get worse if we do not take action to prevent this deadly behavior," Mr Cuomo said in a statement.

A second offense would be punishable by a six-month driving ban under the new law, which also applies to newly licensed drivers. It is legal to drive in New York from the age of 16.

More experienced drivers will be sanctioned by a system of penalty points.

A recent study by the journal Pediatrics found that 45 per cent of school-age drivers admitted sometimes sending SMS messages while driving.

In the United States, 69 per cent of drivers between the age of 18 and 64 have acknowledged speaking on the telephone while driving, with 31 per cent admitting to reading emails or text messages while on the road.