New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveils "texting zones" along thruway and highways (9-23-13)Enlarge Photo
The noble rest stop: an oasis of the interstate where weary travelers can relieve themselves, grab a soda, and do a few jumping jacks to perk up for the long drive ahead.
Now, the rest stop is also the place to make phone calls and send text messages -- at least in New York State.
This week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new program to combat distracted driving. It doesn't require any office buildings, no new governmental agencies, just the addition of several hundred signs along the state's thoroughfares.
According to a press release from Cuomo's office, "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 to 91 Texting Zone locations."
There aren't any special services provided at these "Texting Zones" -- there's no mention of improved cell reception or free wifi. As Cuomo says, the signs simply "remind drivers that there is a nearby opportunity for them to legally and safely use their phone."
But Cuomo's plan doesn't simply involve rebranding roadside stops. New York State Police have also beefed up enforcement of laws meant to combat distracted driving. In fact, over the summer, police issued 21,580 tickets for distracted driving, a 365 percent increase over the 5,208 tickets issued in 2012.
Earlier this year, those tickets carried a fine of up to $100 and put three points on the offending party's driver's license. Over the summer, penalties ramped up to fines of $150 and five license points. That's probably as good a way as any to make drivers put down their phones and pay attention.