AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Transportation this week announced the implementation of Safe Phone Zones at 55 Safety Rest Areas and Travel Information Centers (TICs) across the state, including two near Salado in Bell County. The GEICO sponsored Safe Phone Zones are part of the department’s Sponsor Acknowledgement Program, which seeks companies to fund various benefits for drivers — such as free Wi-Fi at Safety Rest Areas and TICs – in exchange for receiving public recognition through highway signage.

“We are pleased to partner with our first sponsor to create these Safe Phone Zones so people will pull off the road to use their phone rather than using them as they drive,” said Mark Marek, TxDOT’s director of Engineering and Safety Operations. “With more than 100,000 crashes in Texas each year involving distracted driving, we hope to curb this deadly habit by encouraging drivers to pull over at TxDOT Safety Rest Areas and Travel Information Centers to use apps, check email and surf the Web in a safe location.”

Sponsorship funds pay for free Wi-Fi service for travelers at high-traffic Safety Rest Areas and TICs, while the highway signs encourage safer driving habits by reminding motorists to utilize their mobile devices only while stopped at the convenient facilities. Free Wi-Fi service is available at 22 Safety Rest Areas with more available in the coming months.

“The number of traffic fatalities nationwide continues to move in the wrong direction, and distracted driving is no doubt a contributing factor,” said Dan Beacom, regional vice president at GEICO’s Richardson office. “GEICO is pleased that we can partner with the Texas Department of Transportation to support dozens of Safe Phone Zones, and we’re confident these locations will help make highways in Texas safer for all drivers.”

The Bell County Safety Rest Areas are located about 2 miles south of Salado, along the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 35. The rest area for northbound drivers is at Mile Marker 281. The rest area along the southbound lanes is at Mile Marker 282.

About TxDOT Safety Rest Areas

TxDOT currently has 80 Safety Rest Areas and 12 Travel Information Centers (TICs) placed strategically throughout the state. These facilities are essential safety features on the highway system as they allow drivers to rest and get travel information. The TICs are staffed by professional travel counselors who welcome visitors to Texas, help with routings and provide information on points of interest, events and road conditions.

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