Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a message for drivers who might think that an incoming call or text message requires their immediate attention.

It can wait. 

Cuomo announced Monday that 91 rest and service areas along the New York State Thruway and other state highways will be designated "texting zones" to encourage drivers to pull over if they need to make a phone call or send text messages. Approximately 300 signs will be posted along the highways notifying drivers of an upcoming text area.

The Port Byron Service Area, located in Cayuga County on the eastbound side of Interstate 90, will be designated a text area. Other text areas include the Junius Ponds Service Area in Ontario County and the Warners Service Area in Onondaga County, 

"If you wait until you're 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," Cuomo said at a news conference Monday. "This is yet another effort that I think is going to make a difference." 

This is the latest effort announced by Cuomo to reduce distracted driving in New York.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced in May that drivers who are guilty of texting-while-driving or other distracted driving offenses will receive five points on their license, an increase from the previous penalty of three points. 

Along with the point penalty increase for all drivers, Cuomo signed legislation in July to increase penalties for new and young drivers guilty of distracted driving

Under the new law, if drivers with a junior license, permit or probationary license are convicted of distracted driving, they could have their license or permit suspended for 60 days. If the driver is guilty of a second offense, they could lose their license or permit for six months. 

Cuomo signed a separate bill in July increasing fines for distracted driving offenses. First-time offenders face a maximum fine of $150. Fines will increase for repeat offenders. If you commit a second distracted driving offense, you face a maximum fine of $200. For three of more offenses, the maximum fine is $400. 

Cuomo said Monday that one out of five accidents can be attributed to distracted driving and there are five times more fatalities from distracted driving than from drunk driving. 

"Distracted driving is a major problem in this state and it is a problem that is getting worse and it is a problem that costs us lives," Cuomo said. 

There are also three times as many distracted driving incidents as there were seven years ago, Cuomo said. He attributed this to an increasing number of young drivers. 

"As the new drivers are entering the pool, the numbers are going up. And this is a problem for all ages, all drivers. It's especially a problem for young drivers," he said. "Why? Because they are the generation of the cell phone, of the electronic device that's in their hand that they use constantly." 

Cuomo's efforts to crack down on distracted driving were praised by Pattie Rakvica, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver. 

Rakvica, who spoke at Monday's press conference, was driving her son to a golf lesson when they were struck by an SUV. Her son wasn't seriously hurt in the crash, but she suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken nose, fractured neck and an injured shoulder. Rakvica said she spent months in therapy, including time spent learning how to speak again. 

She thanked Cuomo and state officials for establishing new laws to combat distracted driving and for creating new penalties for drivers that are guilty of texting-while-driving and other offenses. 

"We have come a long way," she said. "We must continue to send a message to all drivers that we cannot text and drive and use our cell phones behind the wheel."

Cuomo's latest announcement comes on the heels of a busy summer for the New York State Police. According to Cuomo's office, distracted driving tickets issued by state troopers increased 365 percent from last year's summer total. 

State troopers issued 21,580 distracted driving tickets this summer. Last summer, 5,208 tickets were issued.

Here are two videos provided by Cuomo's office. The first is Cuomo's remarks and the second is Pattie Rakvica sharing her story at the event:

Here is a list of service areas along the New York State Thruway and other state highways where texting zones will be located:

County Highway Locality/Specific Location
Albany I-87 New Baltimore Service Area
Albany I-87 Rest Area - 3 miles south of Albany
Clinton I-87 Beekmantown
Clinton I-87 Point Au Roche
Clinton I-87 Valcour
Essex I-87 High Peaks NB
Essex I-87 High Peaks SB
Essex I 87 Elizabethtown
Essex I 87 Lewis
Rockland I-87 Ramapo Service Area
Rockland I-87 Sloatsburg Service Area
Saratoga I-87 Clifton Park
Ulster I-87 Ulster Service Area
Ulster I-87 Modena Service Area
Ulster I-87 Plattekill Service Area
Ulster I-87 Malden Service Area
Ulster I-87 Rest Area - 11 miles south of Catskill
Ulster I-87 Rest Area - 8 miles north of Kingston
Warren I 87 Lake George
Warren I-87 South Glens Falls
Warren I-87 North Glens Falls
Westchester I-87 Ardsley Service Area
Cortland I-81 Preble
Livingston I-390 Mt. Morris
Livingston I-390 Geneseo
Cattaraugus I-86 Allegany River
Chautauqua I-86 Chautauqua L./Ellery
Cattaraugus I 86 Randolph
Cattaraugus I 86 Randolph
Allegany I-86 Friendship
Steuben I-86 Kanona
Steuben I-86 Campbell
Steuben I 390 Cohocton
Steuben US Hwy 15/I86 Erwin
Steuben I 86 Erwin
Steuben I 86 Hornellsville
Jefferson I-81 1000 Islands/Orleans
Jefferson I-81 Watertown
Jefferson I 81 Ellisburg
Jefferson I 81 Ellisburg
Jefferson I 81 Orleans
Jefferson I 81 Pamelia
Jefferson I 81 Pamelia
Jefferson I 81 Pamelia
Jefferson I 81 Watertown
Orange I-84 Wallkill
Orange I-84 Middletown
Dutchess I-84 Stormville
Dutchess I-84 Fishkill
Putnam I-684 Brewster
Weschester I-684 Bedford
Orange I 84 Greenville
Orange I 84 Greenville
Chenango I-81 Whitney Point
Tioga NY 17 Nichols
Tioga NY 17 Owego
Delaware NY 17 East Branch
Sullivan NY 17 Roscoe
Broome I-81 Penn State Line
Otsego I-88 Unadilla
Otsego I-88 East Worcester
Suffolk I 495 Huntington
Suffolk I 495 Huntington
Cayuga I-90 Port Byron Service Area
Erie I-90 Clarence Service Area
Erie I-90 Angola Service Area EB
Erie I-90 Angola Service Area WB
Erie I-90 Rest Area - 2 miles east of Eden/Angola
Erie I-90 Rest Area - 7 miles west of Hamburg
Genesee I-90 Pembroke Service Area
Herkimer I-90 Iroquois Service Area
Herkimer I-90 Schuyler Service Area
Herkimer I-90 Indian Castle Service Area
Madison I-90 Chittenango Service Area
Monroe I-90 Ontario Service Area
Monroe I-90 Scottsville Service Area
Montgomery I-90 Mohawk Service Area
Montgomery I-90 Rest Area - 10 miles east of Canajoharie
Montgomery I-90 Rest Area - 2 miles west of Fultonville
Oneida I-90 Oneida Service Area
Oneida I-90 Rest Area - 3 miles east of Verona
Oneida I-90 Rest Area - 3 miles west of Verona
Onondaga I-90 Warners Service Area
Onondaga I-90 DeWitt Service Area
Ontario I-90 Junius Ponds
Ontario I-90 Seneca Service Area
Ontario I-90 Clifton Springs Service Area
Ontario I-90 Rest Area - 9 miles east of Rochester
Schenectady I-90 Pattersonville Service Area
Schenectady I-90 Guilderland Service Area
Seneca I-90 Rest Area - 15 miles west of Weedsport


(1) comment


Typical government solution - it won't work because nobody wants to slow down. That's why they're texting while driving in the first place!! Nobody is going to pull into a "texting area" that comes once every 100 miles - text has to be sent and received NOW.

I think the solution is to test student drivers' texting capability. Once they're able to reach a certain number of words per minute (accurately) - both texting - and reading text while driving - they will get a "Safer Texter" sticker they can put on their license plate - and also a windshield sticker. That will alert the state police that they're "A-OK" to text - a safe bet on the highway.

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