Using cell phone while driving now packs extra penalty

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Photo by Tommie Lee

Using your cell phone while driving will now pack an extra penalty.

The B-M-V will now zap you with four points on your license for violating the hands-free law. 20 points in a three-year span gets your license suspended.

State police have issued five-thousand tickets and about twice as many warnings since the hands-free law took effect last July. Spokesman Ron Galaviz says police purposely put more emphasis on warnings to make people aware of the ban. By now, he says, people have had time to get accustomed to the law, and tickets are more likely.

Police also plan six weeks of patrols near school bus stops to watch for traffic violations. Galaviz says a similar blitz in the spring produced more than five-thousand tickets, including some for phone violations or for disobeying the school bus stop arm. But he says speeding was by far the most common offense.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Peter Lacy says the B-M-V is stiffening penalties for tickets in work zones and school zones. The bureau has tacked on two more points for work-zone violations. And school zones will be treated the same way, with a possible four-to-eight points depending on how fast you’re going.

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