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NEW YORK becomes first state to ban hand-held cell phone use

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gov. George Pataki signed into law Thursday the nation's first statewide legislation banning the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers.

``By requiring drivers to put down their cell phones and pay attention to the road, this new law will help make our roads safer and save lives,'' Pataki said. He signed the bill, passed earlier this week by the state Legislature in Albany, in an outdoor ceremony at a Manhattan park.

``Too many families have suffered the tragedy of seeing a loved one injured _ sometimes fatally _ in an accident caused by someone who was driving and was using a cell phone,'' Pataki said.

The law is slated to go into effect Nov. 1. First-time violators of the ban would face a $100 fine. A second conviction calls for a $200 fine and every subsequent violation would cost $500.

The legislation allows for an exception for making emergency 911 calls but does not address the issue of dialing while driving. Speaker phones and CB radios are permitted.

At least a dozen localities have established bans, starting in 1999 with Brooklyn, Ohio. Bans have been proposed in 40 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And at least 23 countries, including Great Britain, Italy, Israel and Japan, bar drivers from using hand-held cell phones.
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