Yesterday, a report by the Associated Press was everywhere, concerning the super tall, unmarked SUVs that New York State Troopers have been given in order to bust texting drivers. They’re grayish in color, there are 32 of them, and they’re properly known as CITE vehicles, which stands for Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement.
So, is this some nefarious plot to make sure your Thanksgiving trip upstate is as unpleasant as possible, forcing you to actually talk to your passengers? It isn’t, believe it or not: the SUVs have been used to catch wanton texters since July, when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced they were part of a million-dollar effort to curb “distracted driving.” Unmarked SUVs have been used by the state police since 2011. Unmarked cars have actually been used by state troopers since 1956. You just didn’t notice them before, because you were too busy texting.
Cuomo first announced that unmarked SUVs would be used to catch texters just before the July 4 weekend, when he called texting and driving a dangerous practice “that will not be tolerated.”
“There is no excuse for distracted driving,” Cuomo added, “and with this operation New Yorkers can be sure that the State Police are watching the road, even if other drivers are not.” (That’s what’s known as gubernatorial shade.) At the time, the Daily Mail and ABC News got a few pictures of the SUVs, which are, more precisely, Chevy Tahoes. Just regular Chevy Tahoes. Despite the wording of the AP article, which led us to originally believe that the new vehicles were some sort of unbearably awesome SUV-monster truck hybrid, a state police spokesperson clarified that they’re not any taller than regular Tahoes.
Completely average-sized SUVs aren’t the only new frontier in text-abatement; in September, Cuomo also unveiled new “Texting Zones” along the state’s highways. Those Texting Zones are actually Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops, and parking areas, which now “dual-function” as texting zones, per the governor. They made new signs that say “Texting Zone,” is what we’re telling you. There are also new signs to tell you how far you are from a texting zone, as beads of perspiration form on your forehead and your itchy thumbs reach helplessly for your tiny electronic security blanket:
State police say they issued 21,580 tickets for distracted driving over the summer, 365 percent more than at the same time in 2012. A better deterrent: force everyone to watch Werner Herzog’s devastating From One Second to the Next, a half-hour documentary about horrific accidents caused by texting and driving. We didn’t touch our phones for a month.