New York has been turning up the heat on texting motorists, which is an excellent idea since many still don’t seem to have gotten the message.
Texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving, which Americans are, of course, less tolerant of than they used to be. It’s time they caught on to the message in the “It Can Wait” campaign, started by one of the leading cellphone service providers (AT&T) and now being adopted by the likes of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: No communication is so important that it’s worth dying, or killing, for.
But all the billboards, public service announcements and “friendly” signs reminding motorists about the practice won’t stop them like tougher laws and a sustained enforcement campaign would. New York is doing somewhat better in those areas, having recently upped the penalty for texting while driving to five license points and first-offense fines up to $150. But is that really enough considering how dangerous the behavior is? (Sending the shortest text message has been likened to driving down the road with a blindfold on for a minimum of five seconds — about how long it takes to cover the distance of a football field at 60 mph. No wonder upwards of 3,000 people a year are being killed in crashes caused by texters.
Yes, New York police have been cracking down on violators — 21,580 tickets were written for “distracted driving” this summer, which includes talking or texting on a cellphone, vs. just 5,208 in the summer of 2012. But all it takes is a drive around Capital Region roadways, where motorists can be frequently seen with their heads bobbing up and down — and their cars drifting in and out of their lanes — to realize that the practice is still rampant. These people surely know they’re breaking the law; they don’t need a reminder so much as a ticket and a stiff fine.