New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announcing Texting Zones

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announcing “Texting Zones.”

With New York’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announcing a plan to add “Texting Zones” to state highways to give drivers a place to stop and text, will other states implement similar plans? In a statement, Gov. Cuomo says that existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops, and parking areas along the New York State Thruway and State Highways will now have another function as “Texting Zones.” A total of 298 signs will be placed along those roads to let drivers know where the 91 Texting Zones are located.

The governor’s announcement included the information that New York state had a 365% increase in tickets issued for distracted driving during the summer of 2013, as compared with the summer of 2012. That totaled 21,580 tickets that police issued for distracted driving this past summer, as compared with 5,208 issued in the summer of 2012.

In the statement, New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison said that 2012 was the safest year in the Thruway’s six-decade history. “With this new effort, we are sending a clear message to drivers that there is no excuse to take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road because your text can wait until the next Texting Zone,” Cuomo said.

UBM’s Future Cities is asking if cities should all add texting zones. In an article for Future Cities, Nicole Ferraro writes that, complicating matters:

[C]ities now have to contend with a new breed of ‘drivers,’ or vehicle operators, including cyclists, skateboarders, and motor scooter drivers — all of whom could do harm to themselves and others by combining those activities with texting. […]

Distracted driving is a huge issue for cities. Indeed, just last week we discussed a social media campaign launched by the Mayor of Houston, Texas, to unite Texan cities against texting while driving. With pedestrian death on the rise in cities across the US, there’s an absolute need to curb driver distractions.

In an Autoblog article about New York State’s Texting Zones, Brandon Turkus writes that Gov. Cuomo said the program will expand if drivers actually use the zones. In a comment below that article, someone named “Trist” is skeptical that the zones will work:

Most of the younger crowd that is responsible for the most of the texting and driving are extremely impatient and inexperienced behind the wheel. If they would not wait to get to a safe spot to send a text, why would they wait until the next texting zone to pull over and text? Impatience is one of the reasons why people text and drive. Inexperienced drivers dread merging on and off the highway, I can see many people not using it just because of that.

And in another comment to the same article, “jcar302” suggests a different approach:

The solution to prevent texting and using handheld phones is very simple.

Points tickets and make the fines higher and higher for repeat offenders.

NJ has had these laws for a few years now with low level fines and no points. It changes nothing. I’m on the road all day, people just don’t care about minor fines, 50% of the people are still on their phones. Friggin headsets are only like $5 on [A]mazon.

You start cranking the fines up to $500+ and giving out 2 point tickets that wack you on insurance rates, people will start taking notice.

Texting and driving is more dangerous than speeding, yet speeding nets you points and texting gets you nearly nothing.

Michael Zak, writing for AOL Autos, offers likes what New York State is doing, calling the Texting Zones “one of the more pragmatic steps officials have taken in combating distracted driving.” He goes on to write:

It’s difficult to predict exactly how well they will work, but by providing the space and advertising the spots heavily, the state could have figured out a more effective way to get people to be safer drivers. It may be the most common-sense approach offered by lawmakers yet.

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