Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Road trip stories: New York’s solution to texting & driving July 29, 2016

Text stop sign in New York

Posted along Interstate 90 in upstate New York.

WE COULD LEARN A THING or two from New York State about efforts to reduce/eliminate texting while driving.

On a recent road trip from Minnesota to the East Coast, I noticed signs along Interstate 90 in New York advising motorists, “It can wait… Text stop parking area 1 mile/5 miles.”

Brilliant. Instead of simply complaining and admonishing, New York State is offering a solution—a place for motorists to pull off thruways and state highways specifically to text. And, yes, motorists were using those no amenities text stop parking areas.

Additionally, New York state law bans drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone or portable electronic device while driving. The state is even considering implementing use of a Textalyzer, a roadside test to check cell phone usage.

In Minnesota, drivers 18 and older can talk on their cell phones while driving. But no driver can legally text.

Texting while driving in Wisconsin

When the ION stopped in front of our van for road construction, I photographed it and wrote down the license plate number. (And, yes, I cropped the full license plate from this image.)

In neighboring Wisconsin, drivers also cannot text while driving. But that doesn’t stop some. Last Friday afternoon my husband and I watched a silver ION weave on Wisconsin Highway 21 about 20 miles east of Tomah. The driver’s behavior was so dangerous that we stayed a safe distance behind as his car crossed multiple times into the oncoming lane and then back toward the shoulder. And not just barely over the center line, but significantly over. Not until we were stopped by road work did we get close enough to the ION for me to photograph the car and to observe the driver’s head down in texting position. I was prepared to call 911, but we had no cell coverage in this area near the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.  Later, when we pulled off the highway into Necedah behind the ION driver, I saw him parked and texting. I wanted to stop, rap on his window and ask him what was so important that he had to endanger other motorists by texting while driving on a very busy Wisconsin state highway.

Laws are only as good as their enforcement. Therein lies part of the problem. With limited resources, cops can’t possibly be everywhere. So maybe New York is on to something. Offer an option to texting while driving other than “Don’t text. It’s the law.”


© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “Road trip stories: New York’s solution to texting & driving”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    I still see people in town still holding their phones & talking while driving one handed.
    And I see people in that looking down texting mode as they drive as well.
    Truly frightening, as I drive a lot for work.
    I wish people would just keep their phones tucked away while driving…

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I am glad you did not knock on his window as I think he might not have liked your admonishment. 🙂 Chris and I do talk while we drive but we have handsfree in our cars so that is the only way to do it in my humble opinion. Even then we are distracted. I remember driving with noisy or crying kids in the backseat as well and I think that was REALLY distracted driving. It just takes some common sense as to how to operate a vehicle safely–there are all kinds of distracted driving and I admit to having done a lot of them in the past including eating while driving. I try to be vigilant but I agree that texting while driving is a no – no.

    • I would not have approached this driver, although I would have liked to. One never knows how another will react.

      You are correct that there are many ways to be distracted while driving. But texting seems, as you say, a definite no-no.

  3. What I cannot understand is the constant need to be in touch with someone. Are we so lacking in human contact that we can’t wait until we get off the road to communicate and what is so important in our lives that we will risk it and likely another’s life? By the way whatever happened to just talking (the original intent of the device) on the phone, though still potentially dangerous, you can still keep your eyes on the road!

  4. What a great idea, that pull over spot!

  5. Maybe or maybe people should just use common sense

  6. Norma Says:

    California also has laws against texting, and talking while driving.But people don’t pay attention. I get really frustrated when I’m behind someone stopped at a red light,and when it turns green, they are so busy on their phones, that they just sit there.

  7. Valerie Says:

    Audrey: I, too, was intrigued by the signs in NY along the freeway offering pull-outs for texting….along with the billboard signs telling drivers…It (texting) can wait! I was going to write about that someday…
    Also, a first for me on our road trip a small recycling bin in our hotel room! I have seen that before. Another good idea.

  8. Jackie Says:

    Unless that phone is in the trunk, people are gonna be distracted. It can wait…just like it did before we had cellphones, but people cant seem to get that through their heads. If only people kept the phone out of reach…. I think that could solve alot of the problems!

  9. Valerie Says:

    whoops – I meant to write “I have not see that before.” but I think you understood.

  10. It’s crazy. Even though handheld phones and texting are both illegal in Illinois, I see both happening all the time. I do like having Bluetooth in the car. If the kids call when I am on a long car trip, I can answer safely.

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