Texting and the turnpike

By Nate Anderson

As someone who 1) uses a computer all day and 2) is not a teenager with a featurephone, I’ve never been much for text messaging. Lots of Americans are, of course, but a recent reporting trip surprised me with how intense the topic of texting has become. Far from being just a widespread hobby, texting has become a real public safety and social concern. It’s one thing to know this; it’s another to see it in action in so many ways over the course of only a few days.

One sees plenty of odd things on American roadtrips. For instance, while crossing Ohio, I passed roads with names like "Gore Orphanage" and "Fangboner"—either of which would serve up-and-coming death metal bands well. In Michigan, someone named their postal supply store "Goin’ Postal!" In Pittsburgh, a billboard said simply, "YOUR WIFE IS HOT." (How did they know?)

But this was the first such trip on which I saw so much talk about texting, probably because the Age of Flight has killed most long-distance car trips. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, for instance, is littered with signs which mean to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and not on the BlackBerry. At rest stops, the signs are staked into the ground and affixed to the doors.

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Seriously, no texting.

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