Archive for Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trash the texts

Driving and text-messaging just don’t mix, and a federal law acknowledging that fact is warranted.

July 30, 2009


It’s hard to argue with the basic premise of new federal legislation that would ban motorists from texting or sending e-mail messages while driving.

To many of us, choosing not to type a message with your thumbs while trying to operate a motor vehicle is a matter of simple common sense. It just isn’t possible to pay adequate attention to driving while taking short or long glances at a cell phone screen while you tap out a message that apparently is so important that it can’t wait until you reach your destination, but not important enough to warrant pulling over and giving it your full attention.

Unfortunately, not everyone seems able to make the sensible choice on this matter. For that reason, members of the U.S. Senate have introduced a bill that would force states to pass laws within two years to prohibit messaging in vehicles or risk losing 25 percent of their federal highway money. It’s the same tactic federal lawmakers have used to compel states to pass seat belt laws and other traffic safety measures. Money talks.

Some might say that vigorously enforcing laws against inattentive driving would take care of this issue or that the federal law should be expanded to include all kinds of other driving distractions, such as reading newspapers, eating or talking on the phone. However, various studies — as well as casual observation — support the contention that text-messaging drivers are such a proven traffic threat that they deserve special attention.

Just this week, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a study on commercial truck drivers that revealed texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or a near miss. Texting also was cited in a Michigan State Medical Society study this year as among the top driving distractions that led to accidents.

States have begun to attack this problem individually, passing various laws against text messaging or cell phone use. The Kansas Legislature even took the modest step of banning the use of “wireless communication devices” for the first six months after a person’s first full driver’s license is issued.

States might be able to handle this matter on their own, but the seriousness of the text-messaging problem seems to warrant nationwide action — and tough enforcement, hopefully before, not after, accidents occur.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

There is a local ordinance on the books that could be applied to texting while driving.

There is an ordinance against irresponsible driving. All it needs is a very stiff fine attached so as not to waste the time of the LPD and to be effective. Send it to the city commission as texting is at least reckless driving. Then again so is applying make up while driving.

BTW this could also be applied to cell phone driving ..... still needs a very stiff fine to be effective.

A law is on the books... use it.

grimpeur 8 years, 9 months ago

This edit ignores cell phone use again. Until cell phones are included in any ban, or until "failure to give full attention" citations are given to drivers who are talking on the phone, road safety will continue to decline. Are you going to call for this important step, editors? Or will you continue to ignore the mountain of evidence showing the hazards of cell use while driving?

Another missed opportunity. Instead, the editors condone the "me first" attitude that makes people think it's OK to endanger fellow road users for the sake of fashion. No, as a matter of fact, whatever you're blathering on about is not important enough to justify putting others at risk.

BigPrune 8 years, 9 months ago

They are testing voice command text messaging in Japan. What's the point when they could be talking?

Carol Bowen 8 years, 9 months ago

Being distracted by a cell phone while driving is a secondary offense by state law. The driver has to be stopped for something else first. I think maybe inattentive driving is a secondary offense, too. Our local law enforcement is not good at ticketing secondary offenses. State law should be changed on cell phone use while driving. Texting may be the most dangerous, but let's not get into denial. Hands-free is distracting and consequently unsafe, too.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

I want someone to take just one day and look closely at every car they pass and determine what they are doing. Then post the number and the offense. Then explain how you got into an accident because you were watching everyone else. Yesterday as I was crossing the street, my light was green, a female with the common sense of a transmogrified boggart nearly ran me over because she was so focused on something she didn't even bother looking over to see if there might be a pedesterian in her path. Then, again she might have been solving the financial crisis, the racial crisis, or mentally composing Sarah Palins new speech.

KansasVoter 8 years, 9 months ago

grimpeur (Anonymous) says… "This edit ignores cell phone use again. Until cell phones are included in any ban, or until “failure to give full attention” citations are given to drivers who are talking on the phone, road safety will continue to decline."

Exactly. Talking on the phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk, even if you're using a speaker phone. Some states already ban all cell phone use by drivers, and I think that Kansas should do the same thing.

Music_Girl 8 years, 9 months ago

Ban text messaging. Ban talking on the cell phone. Ban using hands free devices. Ban talking in the car. Ban correcting your children in the car. Ban speaking to your spouse in the car. Ban listening to someone else speaking in the car. Ban radios in the car. Ban sneezing in the car. All these things cause accidents!! No, it has nothing to do with the fact that people are bad drivers.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 9 months ago

The hearts are in the right place, but a law of this type specifically targeting texting is unenforcable. Will a person get pulled over if they are:

-Removing items from pockets for comfort, including phone and ipod? An officer could see only a split second of this motion and assume that the person is texting.

-Talking on speakerphone with phone in hand? This could also look like texting.

-Picking up an Ipod to change to the next song? This could appear as texting.

-Having any small, colored, object in your hand with fingers on back and thumb on front? Phones take so many shapes, an officer could just see something small in one's hand, such as a wallet, and assume that they are texting depending on how it's being held.

I realize that all of the actions I mentioned are distracting to drivers, but they are not illegal, and would not justify a person being ticketed. It's a good idea, and I agree with it, but it seems like it just can't happen without making it a crime to have something small in your hands while driving.

3up3down 8 years, 9 months ago

Bottom line is not the cell phone, running the stop light, speeding, it is the fact that too many people are allowed, by the city prosecutors, to buy their way out of tickets by doubling the fine and reducing it to a non-moving violation. Now it does not go on their record. It does not cause their insurance rates to go up. It keeps these poor drivers on the road with multiple moving infractions that have been reduced. Cut out the "let's make a deal" crap and start causing these people to become responsible drivers or lose their driver's license.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

The driver that ran over the sherriff officer on a bike was talking on a cell phone at the time...

jonas_opines 8 years, 9 months ago

"It's a good idea, and I agree with it, but it seems like it just can't happen without making it a crime to have something small in your hands while driving."

Yes, like a human heart.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 9 months ago

"Yes, like a human heart."

Whoa. Deep, dude.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 9 months ago

Yes, because this is the job of the Federal government. They certainly don't have anything better to do than pass strict laws against texting.

Carol Bowen 8 years, 9 months ago

Merrill, Those same countries use the metric system as their standard system of measure(including England). The U.S. tried a couple of time but chickened out. Couldn't do the math.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 9 months ago

there really is no need for an additional law. we have too many laws as it is. texting while driving definitely falls under the guidelines of inattentive driving. it is nothing but that. enforce the laws we have, do not create more.

3up3down 8 years, 9 months ago

Agree with keepinig things out or the driver's hands. Need to include their lap too. I have never seen so many dogs driving cars these days. Only problem, they are more interested in things around them and not the road. Damn dogs.

DillonBarnes 8 years, 9 months ago


What are your alternatives? We have become a very car dependent society and many people's livelihood depends in some form on a car. How do you suggest that trend gets turned around and what are the alternatives? No cars at all is extreme and ridiculous. Better public transportation? Is that what you are getting at?

Linda and Bill Houghton 8 years, 9 months ago

Music_Girl -- It would be hard to write and enforce a law forbidding disciplining children in a car, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous than other distractions. That may well have been what was happening when I got hit head-on in St. Louis a few years ago. On a four lane major street, the car drifted from the left lane, through the left turn lane and into my lane. I got stopped before impact, but he was still looking around to the rear seat when he hit me. I was driving a car that was nearing classic status (and therefor did not have airbags). I was a little bit stiff afterward and both cars were totalled. So much for having a classic car--it had been passed down to me when my mother could no longer drive. Fortunately, neither car was travelling fast. If it had been out on a highway, there might not have been any survivors.

George_Braziller 8 years, 9 months ago

Text and chat all you want on your cell phone and not attend to driving. You can kill yourself if you want - just don't take anyone else with you. I've slammed on the brakes many a time when the phone addicts pulled into the cross traffic because they were having a really important conversation about a sale of canned peaches at Dillons or the latest thong styles at Victoria's Secret.

shepdog 8 years, 9 months ago


gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 9 months ago

"shepdog (Anonymous) says…personally i think cell phones were the worse invention ever. all they do is make most lazy people lazier. what could possible be said on a cell phone in a car that couldn't be said on a land line."

You are old.

vega 8 years, 9 months ago

Hop on T and text your heart out:)))

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