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:
|Albany||I-87||New Baltimore Service Area|
|Albany||I-87||Rest Area - 3 miles south of Albany|
|Clinton||I-87||Point Au Roche|
|Essex||I-87||High Peaks NB|
|Essex||I-87||High Peaks SB|
|Rockland||I-87||Ramapo Service Area|
|Rockland||I-87||Sloatsburg Service Area|
|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|
|Steuben||US Hwy 15/I86||Erwin|
|Delaware||NY 17||East Branch|
|Broome||I-81||Penn State Line|
|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||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