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Cuomo proposes stiffer penalties for distracted or impaired drivers

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he'd like to take a closer look at traffic laws and the penalties against distracted or impaired drivers in his State of the State address on Wednesday.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Governor Andrew Cuomo said he'd like to take a closer look at traffic laws and the penalties against distracted or impaired drivers in his State of the State address on Wednesday.

The changes proposed by the governor target young drivers and repeat offenders.

"47,000 drivers with three or more drunk driving convictions are still on the road," Cuomo said on Wednesday. "Let's change the law. Anyone convicted of drunk driving two times in three years should lose their license for five years....and three strikes and you're out and you are off the road. Period."

Police say enforcing tougher penalties could be the biggest obstacle. They say it's hard to catch drivers who ignore license suspensions unless they happen to get pulled over or are involved in a crash.

"They can still get behind the wheel and drive. It's illegal, but again they can still do it,” explained Sergeant Gary Bulinski with the Syracuse Police Department. “I think we're going to have to stiffen the penalties perhaps for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation."

Last year, Syracuse Police issued 367 tickets for Driving While Intoxicated and 33 tickets for drug impaired drivers.

But, there's another issue gaining momentum. 266 drivers in Syracuse were ticketed for talking on their cell phones, 46 for texting while driving.

“Let's continue to crack down on texting and driving,” Cuomo said. “If a teenager is caught texting while driving, they should lose their license for one year."

The governor says the goal is to teach young drivers about the consequences early.

The governor's office said the proposal would double the current penalty of a 6-month suspension for drivers under the age of 21 who are caught texting while driving.

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