ALBANY, NY --- New York Gov. David A. Paterson on Aug. 27 signed into law a bill that bans drivers from reading or sending text or picture messages on their handheld device or laptop while they're operating a vehicle. 

Those who violate the new law face fines up to $150. The fines can only be imposed as a second offense, when the driver appears to be breaking another law. 

The legislation was largely inspired by a tragic accident, in which five teenage girls died in June 2007 when their driver accidentally crossed into the path of a tractor-trailer while she was texting, WPIX News reported.

The new law, effective Nov. 1, makes New York the 18th state to enact such anti-texting legislation.

Text messaging while driving is already banned in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia. Other states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon, have similar legislation in place go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.