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Local News

September 24, 2013

State designates 'texting zones' on I-88

Two local rest areas off Interstate 88 — one in East Worcester, the second in Unadilla — are among 91 highway stops that state officials have designed as “texting zones” in an effort to remind motorists that it’s both unsafe and illegal to be using hand-held electronic devices while driving.

“This campaign is sending a clear message to motorists: It can wait,” said state Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald. “There is no text that is important enough to jeopardize a life, and anyone caught texting while driving will face stiff penalties.”

Officials said state troopers have become increasingly aggressive in ticketing drivers who text or talk on cell phones, handing out more than 21,000 tickets this summer, up from about 5,200 such tickets given out in the same period one year earlier.

Many of the “texting zones” are state Thruway rest areas, and officials said nearly 298 signs are being posted along the Thruway and other highways, advising drivers that “it can wait.”

A new state law enacted in July increased the number of penalty points motorists get on their license from three to five when they get caught texting. Texting behind the wheel has been linked to numerous traffic fatalities, officials said.

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