GEICO has agreed to donate $1.3 million to provide 52 “Text Stops” along New York state highways over the next two to five years in an effort to curb distracted driving. GEICO will also fund posters advocating against distracted driving at 34 text stop locations.
The New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll announced the beginning of a new safety partnership between the NYSDOT and GEICO at a designated Text Stop rest area just off I-87 Thursday.
Just about everyone of driving age has been behind the wheel when their phone vibrates or dings that a message has arrived. Whether you peek at your phone, hastily type a message back in between glances at the road or ignore the message until you’ve stopped the car is a decision most drivers make on a daily basis. It’s a decision that could have a devastating impact on many lives in a matter of seconds.
Distracting driving resulted in 3,129 fatalities in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving,” according to the NYSDOT. That number has remained the same for the last six years. The average amount of time a distracted driver’s eyes are off the road while texting is five seconds – at 55 miles per hour that translates to driving across an entire length of a football field.
Major William Keeler, the Troop Commander for NYS Police Troop G, said anyone who thinks they can text and drive safely is kidding themselves. As police, Keeler said, “We witness the carnage of distracted driving firsthand. Forgive us if we don’t tolerate distracted driving.”
Distracted driving is not limited only to texting but includes phone calls, surfing the internet, reading or typing an address into a GPS. Teens are especially susceptible to distracted driving. According to the NYSDOT, 25 percent of teens respond to text messages once or more every time they drive. One in five teens admit to having extended conversations via text messages while driving. One in ten adults admit to doing the same.
“We all know distracted driving has become an epidemic on our roadways,” said Rick Hoagland, GEICO Vice President of New York Operations. “The number of injuries and fatalities is staggering.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of texting zones three years ago. “This innovative partnership with GEICO supports New York’s broad efforts to curb distracted driving and the traffic safety hazards it creates,” said Driscoll.
GEICO has similar partnerships in Virginia, Arizona and Florida.