THE BRONX - Gov. David Paterson signed a new law Wednesday that gives traffic agents the same protection against assault that police officers receive.

The details of the law were unveiled at a news conference at City Hall. Officials say assaulting a traffic officer could carry with it a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

The crime, which was previously classified as a misdemeanor, is now considered a felony. Officials say 2,500 traffic agents will be covered under the new law, which they say was 20 years in the making.