This weekend marks the second anniversary of the horrific crash that killed five teenage girls from the Rochester, N.Y., area. Investigators found that the driver was text messaging just before the girls’ SUV collided with a truck.
New York’s cities and counties have been actively banning text messaging by drivers in the years since the crash. Ontario County, where the teenagers’ crash occurred, outlawed texting while driving in April.
(July 17 update: A ban on texting while driving has been approved by the Senate and Assembly, and now awaits the governor’s signature. It is expected to take effect Nov. 1.)
Just days ago, Broome County and Ulster County enacted laws against texting while driving. Earlier in the month, Greene and Dutchess counties approved bans on using wireless devices to send text messages and email. No doubt the looming anniversary played some role in getting these bans approved.
The state was among the first in the nation to adopt a cell phone ban, back in 2001, but text messaging and emailing behind the wheel were not significant factors at the time.
The state Assembly and Senate have taken turns blocking and ignoring text messaging legislation. This month, a plan backed by Assembly Transportation chief David Gantt — ironically, a longtime impediment to a texting ban — has advanced to the Senate, where it’s blowing in the political winds.
Clearly, local politicians are doing the job of state legislators who either fail to recognize the tragic toll of texting while driving, or fail to act. In no other state is the divide so vast between what citizens want on this issue and what state politicians do.