EDITORIAL: Texting laws

Ubiquitous text messaging by drivers of all ages makes roads, streets and highways more dangerous everywhere, creating a scourge called “distracted driving” that’s often compared to drunk driving in the degree of hazards it creates.
Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia, but in Mississippi and seven other states (Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) the ban covers only novice drivers, an inadequacy that needs correction in the 2011 legislative session.
Full bans haven’t been shown to lower text-related crash statistics, but that may be because drivers who text have adopted the even more dangerous practice of lowering their phones below the usual sight line, causing their attention to be diverted from driving for even longer than with eye-level texting.
Some proponents of bans also say the lack of a universally usable detection method makes enforcement difficult.
Nevertheless, texting has been proven so dangerous that slacking off on bans isn’t an option. The National Safety Council reported earlier this year that 28 percent of all traffic accidents are related to cell phone use and/or texting – about 1.6 million accidents.
About 266 million cell phones are in use in the U.S., and in 2009, 1 trillion text messages were sent, an 80 percent increase in a span of two years.
Senate Judiciary B Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, said he’s ready to advocate for an across-the-board ban next year, the Associated Press reported this week.
“It’s a given, it would be difficult to enforce, but our law enforcement officers will at least be more aware,” Tollison said.
Banning all cell phone use while driving could be even more effective.
Late in 2009, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., asked during a U.S. Senate hearing for information about text-detection technology.
The Drive Safely Corp. presented its Anti-Messaging Technology, which it claims can determine when a driver starts the texting process, using Global Positioning Satellite technology. It can send a warning to specific phones, asks if the user is a driver, and if the answer is yes, disables the phone for a time.
The safety of our citizens is DSC’s primary concern. DSC Vice President Patrick Bauer explained on Fox Business News, “No text I have ever sent is worth anyone’s life. Something needs to change.”
The company’s motive is also profitability, which is a time-honored way to achieve technological goals in the larger public interest.
Pass the necessary laws; technology will follow.

NEMS Daily Journal