“Text Stops” Give New York Drivers a Place to Safely LOL

The state of New York is taking a page from airports across the nation and installing “Text Stops” – spots for drivers to pull over and read or send text messages - throughout the state, in an effort to curb an epidemic of drivers who continue to text behind the wheel.

Frequent air travelers have become accustomed to seeing “cell phone parking lots” on the outskirts of airports. These special waiting areas are designed for drivers to use when they’re picking up a passenger from the terminal, the idea being that they keep cars from lingering curbside, lessen traffic from cars circling endlessly in the pickup lanes, and keep everyone safer by ensuring that people chatting or texting on the phone have a place to do it safely, with their car in park.

In truth, these “Text Stops” are really just repurposed rest facilities that already exist. Rest stops, parking areas, and Park-n-Ride facilities are simply being outfit with new signage specifying each as a new Texting Zone and encouraging drivers to use them instead of attempting the old one-handed-quick-look method of surreptitiously texting from your lap. In total, 91 locations have been outfit with the new signage. Additional road signs with messages like “It can wait, Text Stop in 1 mile,” have been erected along the roadways surrounding the new Texting Zones to encourage drivers to use them.

Texting while driving is becoming a major problem nationwide, and especially in New York. This summer, over 21,000 tickets were handed out in the state for texting behind the wheel – a 365 percent increase in “distracted driving” tickets since the prior year’s season. New York originally banned texting while driving in 2009 and increased the penalties for distracted driving as of July 26. First time offenders now must pay a fine of $150 if they’re caught ROFLing on the road.

Of course, given that New York has 31 Interstate Highways spanning a combined 1,674 miles, it’s unlikely that the Text Stop program will put an end to all texting while driving. There are just too many cars on the road and too many miles between the facilities for them to completely cure the problem.

For drivers that find the urge to text too great despite these efforts, apps are available for almost all handsets to help reduce your temptation to text. Among the most noteworthy apps are Textecution ($30), which prevents your handset from sending texts if you’re moving faster than 10 miles per hour, and DriveSafe.ly ($14/year), which reads incoming texts aloud and auto-responds to them without the driver having to touch the phone.

AT&T customers can also install a free app called DriveMode, which auto-replies to incoming texts if you’re moving at a speed of 25 miles per hour or higher, letting them know you’re in transit and will respond later. Other text-blocking options are also available.  We seem to have the technology, and with New York State’s latest initiative, we’re building the infrastructure.  Now we just need to develop the discipline.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter