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Stupid Sign Watch: New York State Edition

12/3/13

By Ken Magill

What is it about the word “zone” that brings out such idiocy in so many people?

First we had “gun free” and “drug free zone” signs. Now on the New York State Thruway system, we have “Texting Zone” signs.

Unveiled in September, the program is supposed to combat texting while driving.

“Existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops, and parking areas along the Thruway and Highways will dual-function as Texting Zones, and signage will be placed along the highway to inform drivers where the Zones are located,” said a press release introducing the signs. “A total of 298 signs will be located along major highways across the state, notifying motorists to 91 Texting Zone locations.”

Ah yes. A sign declares it, and it is so.

I am certain the high school my son will attend has no drugs within its walls. Why? Because there’s a sign on the road out front that says so.

My favorite story involving a drug-free-zone sign involved an elementary school where my sister taught fifth grade.

Some teachers—not my sister, thank goodness—rounded up a bunch of the kids and marched them around the neighborhood knocking on doors and informing occupants they lived in a drug-free school zone.

The next day some parents called to find out if what their kids were telling them was true: That their teachers had taken them on a tour of all the local crack houses.

And now we have “Texting Zone” signs in New York.

I have never understood the urgency of texting. My cell phone is charged and on, like, twice a year. I have never sent a single text. I have received three text messages in my life, each with an identical two-word message: “F&ck You.”

Two were sent by a friend after my hometown football team, the Buffalo Bills, scored on his New York Giants.

The third was sent by a woman who I don’t remember ever meeting. I had thought my days of eliciting that reaction from women were long behind me.

But here’s the thing: People text and drive because—yes, they’re idiots—and they’re in a hurry. If they’re stupid enough to text and drive in the first place, they’re not going to pull over because a sign implies they should.

Maybe next New York can post “Peeing Zone” signs on rest stops to eliminate people peeing on the side of its highways. “Dog in Lap Zone” and “Reaching Back to Hit Your Kids Zone” signs might be worth exploring, as well.

Almost as if on cue, while driving across New York State this weekend, we witnessed a car in front of us drift onto the rumble strip twice.

I decided to pass the car. Giving it a wide berth, I asked my wife: “What’s the driver doing?”

“She’s got her head down texting,” my wife said.

Apparently, Miss rumble-strip-car driver missed the texting-zone signs.

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