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Vermont says ‘tis the season’ to hike texting fines

As Old Man Winter swoops into Vermont, the state government wants to be sure drivers are paying attention.

“Our crews just completed a weekend marathon of plowing, and are now here preparing for the next storm to arrive,” announced Gov. Peter Shumlin at a press conference Tuesday. “And as hard as they work plowing snow, they also look for new ways to make roads safer.”

What Shumlin offered is an initiative that has very little to do with snow, but which will affect anyone driving on a Vermont road: stiffer penalties aimed at stopping distracted driving.

Starting Jan. 1, the use of a hand-held device, such as an MP3 player, GPS, or cell phone in a work zone will be banned outright and could carry a fine as high as $479 for the second offense, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

They’ll also up the penalty for anyone caught texting at the wheel, increasing from two to five points on a violator’s driver’s license, which would cause a steep increase in insurance rates.

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