Distracted Drivers, Deadly Results

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Busted. Image from Wikimedia.

Busted. Image from Wikimedia.

After a meeting with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, hasĀ  introduced legislation that would reduce federal funding for states that do not ban texting while driving. However, many families who have lost members because of distracted drivers say this is not enough.

Drunken drivers face very stiff penalties, as they should. However, drivers who get in accidents while talking or texting on cell phones usually get away with nothing more than a fine. In some cases people can be prosecuted for manslaughter, but that’s rare.

More deadly than drunk driving

Though alcohol is involved in many accidents CNN says 80 percent of crashes involve distracted drivers. It makes sense. How do you run a red light or run into another vehicle if you’re paying attention?

Many states already have laws that deem texting while driving a secondary offense. That means if you get pulled over for speeding or another traffic offense and you’re texting while driving, you can get a ticket for it. This legislation would require states to impose hefty penalties on people who text while driving. Whether states would be required to make texting while driving a primary offense hasn’t been published yet.

Texting a fraction of driver distraction

Many people who have had loved ones hurt or killed by drivers who were distracted for reasons other than texting think the legislation needs to be broader. National Safety Council member Dave Teater agrees that other activities such as talking on a cell phone can be just as dangerous.

CNN also tells the story of Anita Zaffke, who was killed by a driver who was painting her fingernails while driving. Teater agrees that texting while driving is a huge issue. However, Teater’s 12-year-old son was killed by “A young lady who was talking on her cell phone, looking straight out the windshield,” he said. Clearly banning texting isn’t the only measure that needs to be taken.

Say your piece

What are your thoughts on legislation involving distracted or inattentive drivers? Do you think penalties against people who cause accidents are already stiff enough, or should there be special punishments for people who get in accidents because of a cell phone or performing another task while driving?

I think it’s fair for people who cause accidents because they’re inattentive to face stiffer penalties than someone who gets in an accident, say, because of an icy road. What do you think? Leave comments sharing your opinion.

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