I recently blogged about Governor Cuomo’s new beefed up penalty for texting while driving (from a 3-point violation to 5 points). But apparently the Gov ain’t done tackling texting. His latest anti-texting initiative is to designate old rest stops along the Thruway and other major highways as “Texting Zones” (see photo).
Here’s my take on the Gov’s new laws: I know the Governor might be naïve to think that his “texting zones” are going to make a lot of texters pull over, just as I know that increased penalties are not likely to put a dent in the texting while driving problem. But I submit he’s moving in the right direction.
The truth is that texting while driving is now so pervasive in New York, and probably everywhere else, too, that the Governor’s anti-texting measures are the equivalent of sticking your finger in a dike that has already burst. Believe me, I know how ubiquitous the practice is, since I sue texting drivers for the broken lives their habit leaves behind.
The real solution may be a combination of several solutions: Combine stricter penalties, and stricter enforcement, with a mass publicity campaign that makes texting behind the wheel seem shameful in our collective consciousness. Yes, it can be done! How do I know? History is the best teacher.
I am old enough to remember when driving without a seat belt was cool, driving drunk was funny, and tossing litter out of your car window was acceptable. What turned the tide on all these practices were: (1) Stricter “buckle-up” laws and a ferocious buckle-up publicity campaign (remember the TV jingle, “buckle up for safety, buckle up”?), (2) stricter anti-littering fines and a ferocious anti-littering publicity campaign (remember, “don’t be a litter bug”?), and (3) harsher drunk driving penalties with a ferocious publicity campaign (remember, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk”?).
In all three examples (seat belts, littering and driving drunk) the one-two punch of more serious penalties combined with humongous ad campaigns turned the tide of pubic opinion. What before was cool or ok now became shameful. The ad campaigns were extremely successful in making it socially unacceptable to litter, drive drunk or drive unbuckled.
There may come a day when people are embarrassed or ashamed of being seen texting and driving, just like we eventually became ashamed to be caught driving drunk or littering. Passengers and nearby drivers will give them disdainful looks. That’s what we need. A change of collective consciousness.
Yes, mass anti-texting campaigns will be expensive, but slowly, surely, they will change mindsets, and they will save lives. And in the long run, that will save money. Accidents are expensive for all of us . . ..
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central and Syracuse NY Auto Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.