Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo revved up his 1975 Corvette Friday for a few laps around Watkins Glen International, one of the few NASCAR courses that includes right turns. Soon after, the car enthusiast governor made another right turn: taking his anti-texting and driving message nationwide.
Cuomo announced Friday at The Glen — site of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series last weekend — that he was partnering with International Speedway Corp. for public service announcements on distracted driving. The partnership will culminate in two PSAs, both featuring top drivers, one for last weekend’s event and another to be shown at NASCAR races through 2013.
It may seem odd that Cuomo is pairing his safe-driving message with a competition in which cars traveling 200 mph often bump, wreck and burst into flames. Or that a New York Democrat is trying to connect with a fan base that leans right politically and is predominantly from the South and Midwest.
Yet Cuomo continues pushing his safety initiatives. And NASCAR provides a huge national audience for that. Also on Sunday, the governor boosted State Police patrols through Aug. 17 in an effort to crack down on speeding.
The “Speed Week” campaign is the latest safe-driving proposal this summer from Cuomo, who also increased unmarked patrols and penalties for texting and driving on July 1. The latter include establishing a minimum $150 penalty, upping points docked from offenders’ licenses from three to five and suspending driving privileges for teens who text behind the wheel.
Drive it home, governor. Despite supposedly hands-free technology — and regardless of how safely you think you can cruise the Long Island Expressway while typing emails — the growing complexity of mobile devices will only lead to more dangerous distractions. And though New York State traffic fatalities dropped by about 25 percent between 2001 and 2011, the more than 1,100 deaths and 10,000 serious injuries projected for this year are the best reasons for taking action.
There’s still a long way to go in this race. And Cuomo can’t take his foot off the gas now.