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Whose Bright Idea Was This? MTA Road Sign Seems To Encourage Drivers To Text To Pay Toll

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Government has been relentless in warning drivers not to text and not to handle their smartphones while driving.

So as CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, it is hard to understand why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority seems to have posted a sign telling drivers they should text.

Approaching the Henry Hudson Bridge, it is hard to miss the electronic message board. It reads "No E-ZPass? **826 to pay toll now or bill will be mailed."

According to a news release on the official New York State website, **826 is a text number.

Thus, it looks like the MTA has posted a sign encouraging drivers to text to "pay toll now."

"I think it's bad -- bad sign," said Manny Ortiz of Riverdale. "Shouldn't be there!"

"They're trying to make money either way," said Artemis Ortiz of Riverdale, "because they're going to pull us over and give us a ticket for texting!"

CBS2 asked road safety expert Robert Sinclair, of AAA, what he thought.

"You might see that message and think that you need to get on your phone right then and text in order to pay the toll," Sinclair said. "This is one bad instance that needs to be changed pretty quickly."

And it turns out that you can't even "pay toll now" with **826. The state website says it is a text number, but the MTA points out that it is actually a so-called vanity telephone number that drivers are supposed to call for more information about getting an E-ZPass.

AAA said studies have shown electronic message boards can actually add to driver distraction.

"More information, more clutter for the driver to deal with when they're behind the wheel – you have to be very, very sure of what you're doing," Sinclair said.

An MTA spokesman said the agency does not think the wording is confusing, and assumes drivers will know not to text or call while driving.

The agency has no plans to remove or reprogram the message board.

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