TRENTON - A bill increasing penalties for texting and driving was signed into law Thursday.

The new law, which will take effect 13 months from now, puts into place a graduated structure for repeat offenders. Currently, the violation carries a $100 fine for each offense. Under the new law, a first offense will mean a $200 to $400 fine and a second offense will cost $400 to $600. A third offense within a 10-year period means a $600 to $800 fine plus a 90-day driver's license suspension.

Supporters of the law say the fines would be divided equally between the county and municipality where the violation occurred. The Motor Vehicle Commission will also use some of the money in a public education program.

The legislation was sponsored by state Sens. Richard J. Codey and Fred H. Madden.

"This law is intended to save lives and make people think twice before putting themselves and others at risk," says Sen. Madden. "Increasing penalties for those who commit this offense and directing these fines to educate the public about the dangers of texting while driving will go a long way in reducing this dangerous trend."

"Talking or texting with a hand-held device from behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as drunk driving," says Sen. Codey. "So think twice before you text and drive because we're going to get you."