State unveils highway 'Texting Zones'

Sep 23, 2013

Governor Andrew Cuomo says with more and more young drivers hitting the roads each year, the problem of distracted driving in New York is getting worse.

One in five accidents is now attributed to distracted driving, most often with cell phones, and Cuomo says those distractions are costing lives.

Governor Cuomo continued the state's efforts to reduce distracted driving by unveiling special "Texting Zones" along the State Thruway and State Highways that will give motorists a pull-off area to park and use their mobile devices.

In recent years, the state has raised the penalties for distracted driving and stepped up enforcement.  On Monday, Cuomo introduced the concept of "Texting Zones" along the Thruway and state highways where people can pull over to use their mobile devices. 

Those zones will include existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops, and parking areas, which will serve dual functions as Texting Zones.

The governor says younger drivers, in particular, must learn to change their behavior.

"As the new drivers are entering the pool, the numbers are going up. This is a problem for all ages, all drivers. It's especially a problem for young drivers. Why? Because they are the generation of the cell phone, of the electronic device that's in their hand that they use constantly," Cuomo said.

The governor cited his own experience with his three young daughters,  saying "I see it firsthand."

"They are attached, affixed to the electronic device, they start driving, they don't have the skill set that you get with wisdom and experience behind the wheel, and it's a dangerous combination," Cuomo said, speaking Monday morning in New Baltimore, New York.

Nearly 300 signs will be placed along state roadways to let drivers know where the 91 Texting Zones are located.  Electronic messaging has gone up across the state with the slogan, "It can wait."

Cuomo says today, there are five times the number of accidents caused by distracted driving than drunk driving. He says there are three times as many distracted driving accident now than there were seven years ago.

The penalty for distracted driving has been raised to five points on a driver's license and the fine has been increased to $150. State Police issued 21,580 primary offense tickets this summer compared to 5,208 in the summer of 2012, an increase of 365%.

Cuomo says he remembers a time when no one wore wear seat belts. Now, he says, wearing a seat belt has become second nature.