To crack down on the amount of distracted driving that occurs on the New York State Thruway and other state highways, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a plan to provide drivers a place to use their phones that doesn’t put their safety at risk.
Proposed “Texting Zones” will be designated throughout 91 different areas from Albany to Seneca counties along the highways to encourage drivers to pull over before texting. Two hundred and ninety eight other signs will also be placed along these roads to alert drivers of the nearest zone from their location.
During Cuomo’s Sept. 23 press release, he said the number of tickets issued to distracted drivers has increased 365 percent between the summers of 2012 and 2013.
“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,” he said.
While Gov. Cuomo advocates these texting zones, some aren’t as optimistic about them. Superintendent of the New Paltz Highway Department Chris Marx is doubtful about the plan.
“I agree that texting is a problem with drivers today, but do not agree with building texting zones,” Marx said. “The cost and maintenance of these, along with the signage having to be installed, I’m sure is expensive.”
Marx said the texting zones seem like another expense to the state.
“The New York State Thruway has rest areas up and down the state that people can park and use for these reasons,” Marx said. “I believe more money spent on enforcement would be a better avenue to follow.”
Third-year organizational communications major and commuter student Henry Pena also holds similar views to Marx on this subject.
“I think people who are aware that texting while driving is quite dangerous are certainly going to make use of [these zones],” Pena said. “The drivers who think they are capable of texting while driving will probably disregard the stops because it may seem like a waste of time.”
Commuter student and second-year painting major Erica Melville holds another opinion about Cuomo’s texting zones.
“It’s a nice idea and it might be useful to some people, but when it comes down to it, if someone really feels the need to text while driving, they’re going to do it anyway regardless of their proximity to a texting zone,” she said.
Among the state’s efforts to combat this ongoing problem, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced stricter policies earlier this year that would discourage drivers from picking up their phones behind the wheel. As of June 1, 2013, any driver found committing this offense can be subjected to up to five violation points on their license — two points up from last year.
Marx said the Highway Department is not aware of any texting zones on town roads in New Paltz, or any proposed zones for the NYS Thruway within the town limits.
“As far as rural roads, just pull over when it is safe to do so,” he said.
Marx said that driving in itself can be a distraction.
“I call myself a professional driver due to the amount of truck driving I did when I worked in the towing industry for six years and all I can say is, people as a norm do not drive anymore,” he said. “They get in the car or truck and just go from A to B and don’t know how they got there.”