Everyone who drives much at all has had the experience of a near-accident or worse with a distracted driver. More often than not these days, that distraction is a cellphone.
Many of us, if we’re honest, will admit to doing some distracted driving of our own.
Talking on a phone will driving is one thing. Texting while driving is another entirely.
While talking on a cellphone with one hand on the wheel isn’t a good idea, it’s certainly easier to make the argument that you can hold a phone and talk on it while still paying attention to the road than to text while doing so. It’s virtually impossible not to be an impaired driver – and a danger to others – while texting.
Yet Mississippi legislators haven’t seen fit to join the 41 other states that outlaw texting while driving for everyone. Our state prohibits only beginner drivers and bus drivers from texting while at the wheel. That’s one of the loosest laws in the nation.
All of Mississippi’s neighbors have stricter controls on texting while driving than we do. Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee ban it for everyone.
As today’s front page story notes, more than 3,000 deaths and nearly 400,000 injuries are now attributed annually to distracted driving. All of that isn’t due to cellphone use, or texting specifically, but it’s a sure bet the biggest share is.
Mississippi lawmakers typically trot out the individual rights argument when resisting a law that would ban texting while driving for everyone. But one person’s rights end when they endanger the life of another.
That’s what everyone who texts while driving is doing, whether they realize it or not. It could be their own lives – or someone in the vehicle with them – as well as other motorists unlucky enough to be the victim of their distraction.
Freedom that puts others in jeopardy is not freedom that merits legal protection.
Sure, there are other ways a driver can be distracted – reaching for something, eating, even engaging in animated conversation with passengers – but none of these, categorically, is as dangerous on their face as the physical and mental distraction involved in texting.
Mississippi should recognize the danger that 41 other states have seen and let common sense rule the day. Texting while driving puts others on the road at risk, and it should be against the law.