|By Reena Singh and Jacob Tierney, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Yet texting behind the wheel is a bad habit that many teens and twenty-somethings like
Despite the flashing signs on state highways notifying drivers of the increased penalties if caught, the 18-year-old
"I still text and drive," he said. "I do it all the time. I'm just more careful."
In an effort to get drivers to put away their phones when they drive, the state has sharply hiked the penalties for texters, who now are slapped with a
That's nearly half of the 11 points it takes for a driver's license to be suspended, according to the state
For those with a junior operators license, a driving-while-texting violation results in a six-month suspension.
"It has increased as one of our main problems," he said.
According to a news release from Gov.
And according to the
"I have checked my phone, but I don't do it often. Just to change a song," said
"It's just a bad habit,"
He said that anyone who uses their phone while driving is not likely to stop because of the law.
the problem grows
"It's something that's a concern of ours,"
Deputies and troopers in marked and unmarked patrol cars have been instructed to be especially vigilant for those texting behind the wheel.
"We try to have two checkpoints a week," said
"The big thing is that it's a distraction from the roadway," he said. "If you're looking down at your phone for even a few seconds, you're traveling all that distance without looking at the roadway."
Aware of the danger, but...
"When I first got my license, I did it once or twice, and I ended up in the wrong lane of traffic," she said.
According to the DMV, people in the habit of texting while driving spend about 10 percent of their driving time outside of their lane.
Some have never been given a chance to make it a habit.
"It's always in the back seat," she said. "As long as I was driving their car, it was their rule that I had to have my phone in the back seat."
For those like
The DMV says just reaching for a cellphone makes a driver 1.4 times more likely to crash. Dialing a number doubles the risk.
"It kind of terrifies me," the
Although she hasn't kicked her occasional texting-while-driving habit, she believes the strict penalties for those caught are fair and may help decrease fatal accidents.
"I don't think it's excessive at all," she said.
It is a common theme with students, who fess up to checking their phone behind the wheel but still support strict penalties for those who are caught.
"People should be punished," said 17-year-old
She said she does not send texts while driving but admitted she's guilty of making calls or checking her phone.
"I keep my phone in my cup holder so I can see when I get a message, but I don't text and drive," she said.
"I'm checking less now," she said. "My phone flashes colors when I get a text, but I don't do it at night, ever, because it's hard to see."
"I know they've done it a few times," she said. "They know I won't pay for their insurance if they do."
"I think a few here and there is not a bad thing, as long as you're not starting a whole conversation," he said.
Despite this belief, he also supports the strict state laws.
"I think they're pretty fair," the sophomore from
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