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Driving While Texting Laws Slow To Catch Up To Problem

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:12 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Cell Phones, Teen Drivers, Text Messaging, Driving While Texting, Dangerous Devices, Auto Accidents

Texting behind the wheel is equal to DUI but few laws exist

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IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ texting teens/ author: LeggNet

 

The nation’s air traffic controllers cannot bring cell phones into work. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts the use of cell phones by pilots and crew when the planes are on the ground. 

And last week, after a Metrolink engineer was found to have been sending and receiving text messages before he ran head-on into a Union Pacific freight train – a collision that killed 25 – the state Public Utilities Commission voted to impose a texting ban on all train engineers, conductors and brakemen while on duty.

Ironically, state regulators had been preparing a ban on wireless devices following two other collisions. 

The use of text messaging is exploding as the latest tool to talk to one another.  The Wireless Association says there were 75 billion text messages sent in June, up from 7.2 billion in June 2005. 

Verizon Wireless cites Charlotte, North Carolina as the “textiest” area of the south where text messaging is up 600 percent in 24 months.

Not surprisingly, the incidence of “Driving While Texting” or DWT, is largely a function of age.

An estimated 20 percent of drivers are texting while behind the wheel, according to a Nationwide Insurance study.   Among young people, between the ages of 18 to 24, that number skyrockets to 66 percent. 

According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year-olds. So adding a device that requires the user to concentrate on a tiny screen while punching miniature keys, does nothing to improve that record. 

In the spring of 2007, a crash in suburban Rochester killed five teenage female friends when they collided with a tractor trailer. The five had just graduated from high school. All of the girls died.Police discovered the 17-year-old driver had been texting just before the crash.

The internet is full of graphic images, too graphic to even to link to here, of children being pulled from accordioned-cars in pieces.

But laws have been slow to catch up to the danger that texting while driving poses, even though people say they want more restrictions on driving while texting or DWT.

9 out of 10 say they support a ban driving while texting, according to a poll done by Pinger Inc. and conducted by Harris Interactive.

Texting makes driving “distracting, dangerous and should be outlawed”  the poll finds, while a British study finds that texting while driving impairs driving skills more than being drunk or on drugs.  

Distracted driving -- including eating, applying makeup and reading -- triggers nearly 80 percent of the nation’s car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

But NHTSA does not have a policy in place regarding text messaging while driving a car.  Regulations are up to states and local agencies, according to NHTSA.

“Certainly, texting is the issue du jour this year in the legislatures,” says Matt Sundeen of the National Conferences of State Legislatures.

High-profile accidents almost always translate into legislation, says Sundeen.

It’s happening in the states but slowly.

So far Washington State, Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey prohibit texting while driving.  In Washington, it is a secondary offense, meaning an officer cannot pull you over for that offense alone, otherwise you are facing a $125 fine.

In Washington, the legislation has had little effect.

Last week, the Seattle Post- Intelligencer reports that in the nine months since the ban took effect, a total of two tickets for the offense have been filed in Seattle Municipal Court. Statewide, 58 citations have been issued, a small portion of the nearly one million traffic stops made there so far this year.  

The city of Chicago is considering a ban. Violators would face a $75 fine, up to $200 if a crash occurs.

Westchester County, New York goes into effect March 9, 2009. Voted in by the County Board of Legislature, it carries a $150 fine for each violation.
New York already bans the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

While other states are considering legislation, the powerful telecommunications lobby has shot down proposal in Florida and Maryland. And cell phone while driving bans have been largely ignored by teens, reports show.

Even when DWT bans are put into effect they don’t hold much of a threat.

The California legislature approved a bill in August that bans DWT (driving while texting), with violators facing a $20 first fine and $50 for subsequent offenses.  Gov. Schwarzenegger has still not signed it waiting for the state budget to be approved. He received the budget last Saturday. 

Entrepreneurs are there to fill in the gap for those suffering from texting withdrawal.   

Jot encourages drivers to make a hands free cell phone call to Jot which will transcribe your call into an email and send it to someone on your address book.  All free of charge, at least for now.

And Pinger, the company that conducted a new survey on text messaging, just happens to make an instant voice messaging service. Call them, say the name of the contact, speak your message to them then hand up. Drivers can send a message to any U.S. mobile phone “while keeping their eyes on the road” says the service.

Unfortunately, a higher body count may have to happen before laws catch up with the problem. 

Here's what FOX fans are saying

“I will be the first to admit that sometimes while driving, I'll try to punch out a quick message while stopped at a red light or slowing down in traffic. Once, I almost slammed into the back of someone just by talking on the phone and I swore I would never talk on the phone in my car again — but that only lasted a couple weeks. I think texting and talking while driving should be banned. I don't care what anyone says, you are not paying attention to the road when you're doing either.” — Jessica (Greenville, SC) says to Fox News  #


2 Comments

Posted by zachary
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:43 AM EST

Cell phones can be fun and very usful at times but dont always need to be used. They are a big problem and need to outlawed.

Anonymous User
Posted by chris
Thursday, October 09, 2008 11:34 AM EST

how many people r in car crashes vs texting crashes

Comments for this article are closed.

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