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Thruway will offer more places to pull over and text

Zack Seward

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state Thruway will offer more places to pull over and answer text messages or make cell phone calls, in an effort to prevent texting while driving incidents.

The New York state Thruway will now have 91 official sites designated as texting and calling areas, to reduce texting while driving. The governor, speaking at the New Baltimore rest stop on the Thruway just south of Albany, says statistics show distracted driving has now become more deadly than drunk driving. He says one out of five accidents today are attributed to distracted driving.

“Five times more fatalities from districted driving than from drunk driving, believe it or not,” the governor said.  

As a way of coping with the reality that people text, or are tempted to text, while they are driving, the state Thruway will begin offering locations specifically designated for drivers to pull over, answer a text or email message, or make a phone call. The stops include travel plazas, park and ride spots and parking areas. Cuomo, who has teenaged daughters that he says are affixed to their smart phones, says he hopes the regularly spaced spots along the Thruway will help drivers be more patient.

“And the signs will say it can wait,” Cuomo said. “Because that’s the whole message. It can wait.”

And if the carrot of offering special spots to text isn’t enough to change behavior, there’s the stick – in the form of a new law toughening penalties for those caught texting while driving. Police are now permitted to pull over drivers they suspect might be texting, and if proven and convicted, the driver faces five points on their license and a $150 fine.

The Thruway Authority is also putting up 300 new signs that warn motorists of the new anti-texting law.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.