State lawmakers want stronger texting and driving penalties

With his phone in hand, Cedric Solice says he was reading a text message when Syracuse Police Officer Lonnie Dotson spotted him looking down while driving.

"It's never a fun experience being pulled over right in front of your house," said Solice. "The urge to do it (text) is very real but it's a dangerous thing to do and you just have to show a little self control."

Right now, texting behind the wheel is a secondary offense meaning the driver also has to break another violation like speeding or swerving between lanes to be pulled over.

But state lawmakers are now taking steps to change that making it easier for police to pull over drivers texting. The bill would make texting and driving a primary offense and also tack three points onto your license, if you're caught.

"We support it because it's enhancing what we are doing," said Syracuse Police Sergeant Joel Cordone. "Unfortunately there are violators out there that continue to violate the law and put the public at risk."

But even as a secondary offense, it's easy to spot drivers distracted on their phones. "They'll cross the double solid yellow line or they'll run a red light, go through a stop sign," said Syracuse Police Officer Lonnie Dotson.

Lawmakers hope the bill will drive down the number of distracted driving crashes. Studies show you are 23 times more likely to get in an accident if you are texting. Nationwide, 16,000 people have died in texting related crashes.

Officers say to curb that trend drivers need to break their bad habits.

"I don't text, ever. It is a big distraction and I think most accidents are caused by that," said Ryan Calabria.

The bill passed the Senate Tuesday. It will now go to Assembly for a vote and if it passes through there, Governor Cuomo will have to sign off on it. He has already says he supports the legislation.