Archive for Sunday, September 25, 2011

KU professor says Illinois crackdown on texting while driving can be example for local law enforcement

September 25, 2011


A Kansas University professor who studies distracted driving behaviors says Kansas law enforcement agencies could learn lesson from Illinois on how to crack down on drivers who send text messages behind the wheel.

“It really is just whether or not it’s a priority,” said Paul Atchley, a KU associate professor of psychology who participated in a summit about distracted driving in Illinois earlier this year.

Since January, Kansas officers have had authority to ticket motorists who send electronic messages while they’re driving, but the law has been used sparingly so far this year in Douglas County. Officers have written eight tickets in Douglas County District Court, and six of those occurred after accidents in which drivers admitted to sending a message before a crash. Lawrence police as of last week had issued 15 tickets for texting and driving, according to municipal court.

Kansas officers have said the law is difficult to enforce because it can be tough to tell if a driver is sending a text, email or instant message, which is illegal, versus dialing a phone number, which is legal.

But Atchley said Illinois law enforcement has had better results since its texting-and-driving ban took effect in January 2010. According to statistics, the Illinois State Police wrote more than 900 tickets and warnings for texting in 2010, and Atchley said state leaders made an effort to reach out to judges and helped educate officers about how to best to identify — in ways that would hold up in court — that drivers were texting.

For example, officers were taught to watch more for drivers who looked down at their phones for long periods of time to make it more likely they sent messages instead of simply dialing numbers. Atchley said the methods have proven to be effective.

“You have to start with enforcing laws vigorously,” he said.

Josh Kauffman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said in addition to enforcement the state has focused on educating drivers about the dangers of texting and driving.

“We feel it’s been successful in getting the word out,” Kauffman said.

Kansas law enforcement and transportation officials have also talked about educating the public to try to prevent texting-and-driving behavior as well, but Atchley said he believed the issue got more attention in Illinois, especially from high-ranking legislators, which has made it more of a priority for law enforcement officers there.

He said he’d heard one example of plainclothes officers in larger cities patrolling near carriers who sold newspapers in medians at stoplights and watched for drivers who were texting. Then they could radio to another officer in a patrol car about whom to pull over.

Atchley is not sure the Kansas texting law is tough enough. It carries a $60 fine plus court costs, and he said Kansas officers might not see that as worthwhile enough to pull someone over. A Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman has said troopers just want to make sure that “100 percent” it’s a violation before pulling someone over.

Atchley said that’s where more legal education can come in for officers.

He’s been working for years on research seeking to bring awareness to the damage distracted driving can cause, and he said the National Safety Council has estimated that 28 percent of crashes nationally are caused by drivers who were distracted by an electronic device, mainly a cellphone.

Atchley said the use of seat belts and preventing drunken driving rank as higher safety priorities in states than stopping distracted drivers, likely because advocates have pushed for decades on those two issues.

He said the use of cellphones and texting while driving will become more dangerous because the use of the devices can be addictive for most people. He advises drivers to put their phone in the trunk to eliminate any chance they will grab them when they ring or vibrate.

“No text,” Atchley said, “is worth losing your life over."


5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

I drive around Lawrence daily for my job, and my vehicle is taller than most cars on the road. You would NOT believe the number of people I see texting and driving every day. It's terrifying.....

5thgeneration 5 years ago

7 entries for 1 post? What's going on here LJW?

grimpeur 5 years ago

Whatever we do, let's continue to pretend this is not a problem.

We don't need a new law. Inattentive driving is already a violation. Time to step up the fines and the consequences for cell phone use and texting. If it's necessary to make these violations more severe, then do it. Now.

thelonious 5 years ago

I commute on K-10 between Eudora and Lawrence every day, and I see someone texting while driving on every trip. Enforcing this law would be as easy as patrolling K-10, and start pulling the driving-while-texting drivers over. It'd be that simple.

Munsoned 5 years ago

I just don't see it being that simple unless there is a team working in tandem; one in an unmarked car and the other one marked. Who is going to text while a marked car is near you? Well, okay.... the distracted ones.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years ago

"Kansas officers have said the law is difficult to enforce because it can be tough to tell if a driver is sending a text, email or instant message, which is illegal, versus dialing a phone number, which is legal."

Well, the answer is quite simple. Make any handling of any electronic fruit (pods or berries) while behind the wheel illegal. Why in the hell is it not illegal to talk on the phone while driving?? It is illegal to be intoxicated or on chemical recreations behind the wheel. What is the difference with this and some stupid person yakking about what color their daughter's party dress shold be or how many goals their son scored in yesterday's soccer game. This cell phone and texting business is very simple. You can kill yourself or someone else. It should be illegal and with a heavy fine. What is the problem with recognizing the problem and outlawing it completely????????

BlackVelvet 5 years ago

Distracted ia distracted. The cops should start vigorously writing tickets. If they lose a few cases in court because someone says they were dialing the phone and not texting, emphasize to the judge that DISTRACTED is DISTRACTED. Like applying makeup while driving..or reading a book while driving.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

If we follow your argument to its logical conclusion, then we have to ban all conversation between the driver and his or her passengers. After all, what is the difference between being talking into a handheld phone (or a no-hands device) and talking to the person sitting next to you? In fact, the argument could be made that having a conversation with your passenger is more dangerous than speaking into a phone, because with the passenger folks would have a tendancy to try to establish at least minimal eye contact with their passenger. I have never hear tell of a person attempting to maintain eye contact with their cell phone

The problem is not with the conversation, its with the procedure that precedes the conversation, i.e., either reaching for your phone to answer the call, or reaching for your phone and attempting to dial a number.

Its perfectly legal to dial a seven digit number. But its illegal to type a four letter text message.

The law simply doesn't make sense.

A better law would be to prohibit any activity that requires inputting more than two or three key strokes at any one time. This way, drivers could answer their phone or speed dial a number, but would not be distracted by the difficulties of keyboarding several consecutive characters. Cell phone keypads are so damn small, and imho its the difficulty in the kepad input process that causes most of the distraction problems. A savvy driver can bring his phone up to eye level and read a short message with no more distraction than glancing down to check the speedometer.

Food_for_Thought 5 years ago

Adding to this, I think the phone law should be similar to how part of the DUI law is written. If an officer can articulate that he/she observed the driver demonstrating distracted driving (weaving, delayed reactions to traffic and signals, traffic violations, swerving, etc.), AND observes them holding an electronic device, whether i-pod, cell phone (text OR talk), or any other similar distraction, then cite away.

It's not illegal to drink alcohol and be below 0.08 BAC; HOWEVER, if one is less than 0.08 and the officer can articulate the person's driving and performance of field sobriety tests as a result of their alcohol ingestion, the person is DUI. This same principle should be applied to phones and driving.

vigil05 5 years ago

Having a conversation with a passenger does not have the same distracting effect as speaking on a cell phone.

  • Folks complain about the backseat driver. Well the backseat driver is concerned for his/her life. Your passenger is quite aware of the roadway. Take the time to notice when you enter into a busy intersection or some crazy ramp on the interstate. There is usually a hush in the car.. provides a nice little write up. No worries, no crazy scientific jargon.

  • Your argument on reaching for the phone is negated by "newer" bluetooth technology that allows the driver to call somebody or take a call without having to reach for the phone - car companies are always trying to "make it easier" ..

Motorists that get into crashes often state "I looked, but i didn't see". Is that even possible? It is. Your eyes may be "looking" but your brain might not be processing the information. What you see is not what you get. May i refer you to the "Invisible Gorilla" study

Back to the topic of texting...

A savvy driver would not consider bringing up his phone up to eye level at all. A savvy driver will probably WAIT until he is at a safe location. i.e. OFF the road. The problem that most of us have is that we think that we're better than the other person on the road... That is until we kill somebody, or somebody kills us..

patchley 5 years ago

Actually, they are NOT the same thing at all. Studies directly comparing the two show an in-car conversation changes with road demands, but a cell conversation does not. Think about what happens to your in-car conversation when you hit the crazy interchanges in downtown KC: It stops. The passenger is keenly aware of the road and limits the distraction. (BTW, teens are not as good as this which is why some states limit the number of teens that can be in a car with a teen driver.)

Other work has shown that a passenger can also serve as a safety booster, acting as another set of eyes on the road.

It is not a manual control issue. All of the research uses hands-free devices.

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

Not quite. I heard one of Paul Atchley's presentations. The difference between a conversation with a passenger and a conversation on a cell phone is that the passenger reacts to the traffic by pausing or stopping the conversation while a talker on the other end of a phone conversation is oblivious to traffic problems. Using the cell phone requires more concentration.

Sharon Aikins 5 years ago

I will never figure out what is so important that a driver cannot wait until he/she arrives at their destination. I'm guessing most texts are just conversations. Why is it that no one can spend two minutes by themselves without phoning, texting, etc.? You see them on the roads, in the stores, restaurants. It's sad but a friend with teenagers told me recently that kids don't really know how to react socially. They will even sit in the same room and text each other rather than talk. Will homo sapiens eventually lose the ability to speak by not using it?

kernal 5 years ago

Last week I was behind a driver who sat through three of her turns at a four way stop sign, then proceeded to drive an entire block while texting and NOT watching where she was going. If I hadn't been behind her to give her a warning honk when she drove over the curb and again when she drifted to the left lane and nearly caused a head on collision, she'd probably not have her car to drive today. My bad. But, then the person she almost hit might have been injured. Would have pulled over and called 911, but would have lost sight of her. So, note to the woman driving the filthy blue Volvo with Sedgewick plates: Pull Over! And, wash your car.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

There is a law on the books that could be applied to cell phone use while driving. This law could likely be applied to texting in addition to the law making texting illegal.

Other states:

Other countries:

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Law enforcement could confiscate cell phones in all cases in order to verify AND substantiate their case.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years ago

Merrill hates the Constitution.

Food_for_Thought 5 years ago

The problem lies within an agreeable timeline of occurrence. What if the person's cell phone and the officer's in-car video camera times are 3 minutes off? Did the officer witness that vehicle drive for more than 3 minutes to argue the discrepancy? The defendant could claim that they texted earlier but was stopped in a parking lot at that time.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Unreasonable search and seizure, that's the ticket!

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Actually not. Just got lucky this time. :)

Alexander Smith 5 years ago

honestly, cell phones should be banned straight out. There are many studies out there, (not taking time to link any) that I read during my masters program at school. Using a cell phone is very distracting wether texting or talking., People get wrapped up in conversations on a phone because they have this protective barrier between them and the other person so they get really involved. We existed fine in the past without cell phones in the car...we don't need them now. If the call is that important then the person call pull over and take the call.

Remeber taking the driving test, a legal binding contract with the state?? The driver will not do anything that distracts him/her from ensuring the safety of them selves and others on the road while not violating the law. While is this legal binding agreement being ignored because there is tons of evidence out there that proves cell phones DO distract drivers??

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years ago

Have a couple of beers and drive home watching the road, loose your liscense for a year.

Drive down the road looking at your cell phone, cause an accident, that is ok.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

It takes more than a couple of beers to blow above .80, unless you weigh 50 pounds.

Ian Brown 5 years ago

You are right, it would probably take around 90 beers to blow above .80. Now, to blow at, or above, .08, 2-3 beers could be enough, especially if one drank them just before driving his or her car.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Come now, you knew what i meant. Furthermore, the description used--"having a couple of beers"--implies to most of us (maybe not you), drinking those two beers at the proverbial relaxed rate of enjoyment, and not guzzling them. Perhaps you are a guzzler?

In any event, I once had two beers in a 40 minute period and shortly thereafter was pulled over for speeding. The officer smelled alcohol on my breath and asked me to submit to a preliminary breath test. I complied. The results were a little under .02, and I was sent on my way with a mere warning for the speeding (probably because I passed the attitude test, was polite and respectful, didn't bs him, and when asked, told him the complete truth.

BTW, I weigh 165 pounds.

optimist 5 years ago

Legislate, regulate. While I know texting while driving is a problem I think it is overblown. Inattentive driving is already a violation and is enforcable. It is difficult to accurately enforce this law and consequently it should never have been passed. I for one would be highly annoyed if I were to be pulled over because an officer "believed" I was texting. This is so arbitrary as to draw concerns about how it might be used.

What will we outlaw next...children in the car. They can be distracting to a driver. How about talking to spouses while driving? Now that's a law I can get behind.

edmclinn 5 years ago

Let's just get rid of the Automobile. That will cure all of our driving problems.

edmclinn 5 years ago

I love how we want more laws for the government to enforce. When a very REAL problem is with Law Enforcements use of Warrantless taps in Kansas.

Kontum1972 5 years ago

u forgot driving while porning...

melott 5 years ago

Now, if he could only offer the police some advice on how to tell whether bicycles are running stop signs and red lights....

lawrencian 5 years ago

did you know that there is a new law in Kansas that says it is okay for bicycles to go through a red light, if they've stopped first, because they aren't massive enough to trip the light? it applies to motorcycles as well.

I will admit to being a bicyclist who goes through stop signs, but only when there is NO other traffic, so I am not actually "taking their turn" and occasionally when I am turning right, and so is the other car, in another direction. Sometimes, I come nearly to a stop, and then continue, but only when it is clear to me that the other driver sees me, and has stopped, and we both clearly know that it is already my turn to go (since I got there before them.) But usually, I see the stop sign as an opportunity to stop for a quick sip of water.

yourworstnightmare 5 years ago

Let's make a deal.

If texting while driving remains legal or is not the subject of arrest, then let's allow drinking while driving.

A beer on the way home from work or to the ball game is no big deal and would result in no impairment for most people.

As was said earlier, we already have laws against distracted driving. These could be enforced with regard to driving behavior, whether texting or drinking.

Why single out one potentially distracting behavior (drinking) and not another (texting)?

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Driving is not a constitutional right neither is texting nor cell phone use. Both have been equated to drunk driving by some researchers.

Meanwhile... Obviously some other USA states have concerns:

Kids and chatting with the wife do not necessarily require taking eyes off the road or require keeping only one hand on the steering wheel.

From around the world those who take a practical approach:

Just this afternoon I met a young man/employee who does not own a cell phone at Sunflower Outdoor and bike.

Ever notice how many people are looking down at their cell phones whether walking along or when someone is trying to talk to them or at the dinner table or at a family gathering?

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Ever notice how many people are ready to pitch various parts of the Bill of Rights whenever they think doing that fits their own agenda? Hmmmmmm

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years ago

What part of the Bil of Rights allows irresponsible people to kill and main others with their stupid behaviours?

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

I was referring to merrill discarding the "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..".

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