Thruway to add “texting zones” to cut down on distracted driving

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The state Thruway will add more than 90 “texting zones” to encourage drivers to pull over rather than text and drive behind the wheel.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new initiative today, saying the state will add nearly 300 signs along the 496-mile thoroughfare to alert drivers to the texting areas located at pull-off areas and rest stops.

Cuomo signs“That’s the intelligent way to do it, and the signs will say it can wait,” Cuomo said at a news conference at a rest area near Albany. “Because that’s the whole message. It can wait.”

Cuomo has boosted penalties for texting and driving as studies show how dangerous the act can be and as deadly accidents, mainly involving teenagers, persist.

In July, Cuomo signed into law a bill that increases the penalty from three to five points on a license for texting. The new law also adds texting while driving to the infractions for probationary and junior licenses that can lead to a suspension for 60 days.

The new signs include messages that read, “It can wait. Text Stop: 5 Miles.”

Cuomo said he often talks to his three teenaged daughters about the need to use caution on the roads and not text while driving.

“Five minutes really won’t make a difference” to wait to look at a phone, Cuomo said. “It really won’t. It can wait. And if you wait until you are in a rest area or a service area, you literally may be saving someone’s life, and the life you save may be your own.”

The state’s enforcement of texting while driving has led to major increase in tickets, the state said.

This summer, State Police issued 21,580 tickets for distracted driving, including talking a cell phone without a hands-free device. In the summer 2012, 5,208 tickets were issued.

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