Governor Andrew M. Cuomo continued the state’s efforts to reduce distracted driving by unveiling “Texting Zones” along the New York State Thruway and New York State Highways that will give motorists a pull-off area to park and use their mobile devices. Existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops and parking areas along the thruway and highways will dual-function as Texting Zones, and signage will be placed along the highway to inform drivers where the zones are located. A total of 298 signs will be located along major highways across the state, notifying motorists about 91 Texting Zone locations.
This initiative comes after a 365 percent increase in tickets issued in summer 2013, compared to summer 2012 for distracted driving, a result of an enforcement crackdown by the New York State Police. This summer, police issued 21,580 tickets statewide, surpassing last summer’s total of 5,208 tickets.
“New York State is continuing to use every tool at its disposal to combat texting-while-driving,” Cuomo said. “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.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “This campaign is sending a clear message to motorists: It can wait. There is no text that is important enough to jeopardize a life, and anyone caught texting while driving will face stiff penalties.”
The campaign was in addition to two efforts initiated earlier this year to crack down on distracted driving – increasing the penalty for distracted driving from 3 to 5 points on a driver’s license and legislation to increase license suspension and revocation periods for distracted driving on young and new drivers.
State Police have been using Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles as part of the operation, in order to more easily identify motorists who are texting while driving. CITE vehicles are SUVs that have platforms higher than an average vehicle, allowing officers greater ability to see into other vehicles and detect individuals in the process of sending text messages. The fleet of CITE vehicles are unmarked and come in a variety of colors, to ensure that they blend in with traffic on the road. They are also equipped with hidden, high-intensity emergency lights.
Texting Zones include rest stops in Cattaraugus County at Allegany River, Chautauqua, Randolph, Friendship in Allegany and Clarence, Angola, Eden and Hamburg in Erie County.