If you're one of the 38.9 million American motorists planning to hit the road this Thanksgiving and you've got a penchant for texting behind the wheel, keep an eye on the driver beside you – especially if you're in New York and she's in a big SUV. According to the New York Times, troopers in the empire state have been given 32 full-sized SUVs from which to spot motorists who might be texting and driving.
Why? Because in New York – just like 40 other states – texting and driving is illegal. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped drivers from breaking the law, and many of them have gotten crafty in the process.
You've probably noticed this yourself, but if not, keep an eye on your fellow motorists next time you're tooling around town. Although some ne'er-do-wells will undoubtedly be stupid/brazen enough to hold their phones close to their faces, many others will keep the devices hidden below the car's belt line, making it harder to know whether they're actually breaking the law. If you're out at night, though, you'll be able to spot the telltale glow.
But why would New York buy brand-new SUVs to spot texters? Because an SUV's seating position gives state troopers an extra edge. From their higher vantage point, they have a better view of drivers' laps, where many of those texting and driving keep their phones. No, SUVs aren't exactly a high tech solution, but they ought to do the trick.
It's not surprising that New York would do this – after all, governor Andrew Cuomo has focused lots of attention on texting and driving, going so far as to rebrand many of the state's rest areas as "texting zones". Over the summer, New York state troopers handed out a whopping 5,553 citations during a two-month crackdown on texting and driving.
And to be fair, Cuomo has good reason to be concerned: distracted driving remains a big problem in the US, and it's likely to get bigger. While the number of traffic fatalities linked to drunk driving continues to decline, deaths attributed to distracted driving are edging upward.
Bottom line: If you text while driving in New York, there's an increasingly good chance you'll get caught. You could, of course, be hyper-vigilant, avoiding any and all SUVs. Or you could make the smarter choice of putting down the cell phone until you pull over. Your call.