When New York Senator Charles Schumer introduced legislation that would effectively ban texting while driving, it seemed like an obvious choice. Yet recent developments in other states to enact similar laws have experienced some difficulty. How can this be if, as CNN reports, 80 percent of all car crashes involve distracted drivers who are texting, talking on a cell phone or doing something else that takes their attention away from the road? Apparently, state governors appear to be hung up on loopholes in the language of the legislation.
Texting while driving: a sample of what’s wrong with government
Some states across America are having difficulty passing a total ban on texting while driving. Georgia is one of those. A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article indicates that Gov. Sonny Perdue is wary of “enforcement issues” that could result from the wording of the proposed texting-while-driving legislation. The difficulty in this case has much to do with language banning “the reading of any text-based communication” while driving. In addition, Gov. Perdue suggests what numerous other state governors have been thinking, that the laws won’t necessarily change the behavior when it’s quite easy for drivers to obtain the instant gratification of texting while driving.
“If I get my e-mails and I pick up a smart-phone and read my e-mails,” said Perdue, “I’m violating the law. But if I print out my E-mails and I have a sheet of paper driving (and look at it), then I haven’t violated the law.”
Foregoing instant gratification
Using Perdue’s logic, perhaps all distracted driving should be against the law. There’s certainly evidence to support this idea. If stringent texting while driving laws go into effect, won’t every ounce of prevention be worthwhile? Distracted driving in general is dangerous, but studies cited by the AJC indicate that texting while driving in particular causes 1.6 million accidents per year, more than 500,000 injuries and 6,000 deaths nationwide. In addition, texting while driving has been shown to be three times more dangerous than driving drunk, as focusing on a phone requires concentration. Overall, texting while driving, writes the AJC, is 23 times more likely to cause an accident than without. Considering those numbers, it should be possible for someone to pull off the road, at the very least, if they must send or read a text message.
Auto Week and Oprah fighting the good fight
The automotive news site Auto Week has a national campaign under way to drive home the message of avoiding texting while driving. “We know what a car can do – artistically and brutally at speed,” writes Auto Week. “As car guys we must be on the front lines to carry the message, willing to share with everyone we know about the dangers of distracted driving. We must tell everyone to stop texting while driving. We are selfish that way. Because we want them to live.” Along similar lines, Oprah Winfrey’s “No Phone Zone” national campaign has garnered hundreds of thousands of petition signers.
Make roadways safer now
Perhaps state governors like Mr. Perdue will recognize that while his state’s anti-texting while driving bill may not be perfect, signing is a necessary start to help make roadways safer and save lives in the process. For more information on current texting while driving laws across America, the link below to the Governors Highway Safety Association offers a current list of state-level cell phone and text messaging laws.
Related Video (WARNING: This video depicts a graphic, bloody, dramatized texting-while-driving accident. This made-for-British-high-schools PSA is called “The film that will stop you from texting and driving.” It made my editor cry; proceed with caution.)