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Summary:

[qi:014] Democrats in Congress led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are set to unveil legislation today that would ban texting while driving across all 50 states, according to the Associated Press. Fourteen states already have bans in place, but with a new law, the federal government […]

[qi:014] Democrats in Congress led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are set to unveil legislation today that would ban texting while driving across all 50 states, according to the Associated Press. Fourteen states already have bans in place, but with a new law, the federal government can add the threat of holding back federal highway funding to get the other states to comply. That financial threat is how the government managed to raise the drinking age to 21 from 18.

The efforts come after the release of a study showing that texting while driving increased the risk of an accident by 23 times. Imagine that — spending time hunting for letters on a tiny keyboard and staring at a screen while piloting a 1-ton machine that can travel down roads at speeds of 70 mph can increase your likelihood of an accident. However, folks do it all the time. It’s anti-social for drivers to place their own communication needs above the safety of fellow travelers on the road.

I don’t think legislation will do much to halt this, because it’s difficult to police people inside their cars. Perhaps making it a social stigma might help, although people still get behind the wheel of a car drunk. Of course, even if texting is banned, does that halt the instances of people looking up movie times on their phone while driving? Or futzing with a personal navigation device? Or engaging in complicated conversations on the highway? Do we really need to officially ban all of these things so people will realize that their needs and desires can’t always come before others’ safety?

This nifty chart by the Governors Highway Safety Association breaks down the assorted state driving laws surrounding the use of a phone in the car. For example, apparently in my home state of Texas bus drivers can’t text if there are people under the age of 17 riding the bus. I suppose those groups with anyone 18 and up getting ferried about are on their own. Maybe they can politely ask the driver to pay attention.

  1. Mishan Aburted Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Cars should be equipped with tamper-proof short-range phone jamming that’s active whenever the car’s speed is greater than zero.

    The scenario I really love is looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing someone tailgating me while futzing on their phone and looking at the scenery — in a big SUV. It’s an allegory for the problems of modern technological civilization.

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    1. What about other cars nearby that would be affected? I could imagine in many downtown areas this would mean cellphone jamming for bus riders, walkers (hmm maybe that would be a good idea), and others.

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    2. Keith Townsend Thursday, July 30, 2009

      What you propose is ridiculous because it punishes all of the passengers who also have phones. I have first hand experience how frustrating it is to have useful technology blocked while the car is moving even though others in the car could still operate the device safely. Toyota chose to put a speed sensing blocker on the built in navigation system to prevent most interactive functions while moving. Why should I have to stop my car just to set or modify my destination on the GPS when I have a perfectly capable passenger riding with me? Completely ridiculous and if I had known about that behavior of the nav system I would have spent that money on an aftermarket model without the limitation. The same goes for a system that would jam phones while moving. Can you say mass consumer boycott?

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  2. Just ban the use of cellphones while driving altogether. Part of being pulled over for a traffic violation that may have been caused by distracted driving should be checking the drivers’ cellphone records.

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  3. Seems like we already have laws against inattentive driving, which I would think would cover texting while driving. But noooo, let’s make another law instead of enforcing one on the books.

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  4. Some of the lame-a$$ drivers on the road just cannot multitask and should have it on their drivers license that they are not to drive while on the phone (be on the phone while driving). A test for this is needed just as we are tested for our eyesight when we obtain a license.

    At the same time, recent news reports are that eating while driving is the most distracting activity and is involved in a large percentage of accidents, and that should also be eliminated.

    Officer: “Sir, may I see your license? You were weaving/speeding/following too closely back there.”
    Driver: “But officer, I was only eating my breakfast ’cause I didn’t have time to eat before I left for work.”
    Officer: “Step out of the car, sir. Blow into this meter.”
    Driver: “But I have not been drinking.”
    Officer: “Sir, you HAVE been eating while driving. Now I will have to take you to jail.”

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  5. As macdad notes distractions occur from texting, cell phones, interesting signs, kids asking questions from the back seat, music on the radio as well as many other events on the road and in the car. We will not be able to remove all of those distractions. Smart legislation along with individuals taking responsibility to stop self-inflicted distractions will go a long way toward reducing the 6 million accidents that occur in the US annually.

    Research also shows that brain’s ability to quickly recognize and make decisions on what is happening around a driver is critical to driving safety. I am CEO of Posit Science, the leader in clinically-proven brain fitness software, and we just released DriveSharp. It is a software program recommended by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that makes people safer behind the wheel by training the brain to think faster and react quicker. For more information, please go to http://www.drivesharp.com

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  6. Maybe we should just ban driving altogether.

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    1. I agree, LOL
      What level do we take it?
      Thats it we can ban all things… you can only use the bathroom and your bed and watch TV.
      Cause there is a chance you kill somebody or yourself, if you do anything else…

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    2. grow up. I know its a problem but you know if we didnt have a car in this world things would be jaked up on the places we would want to go.

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  7. haha i m txtng whl drvng splat

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  8. It’s really sad how the hammer of funding is used to force states into compliance with federal mandates. There’s no reason that we should have a national drinking age or a national driving attentiveness law. This should be a matter left to individual states to decide.

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  9. This is exactly what congress should be working on: banning antisocial behavior.

    The problem with this legislation is that some people who text while driving, rather than quit texting, will text with their phone in their lap where cops can’t see it. This will be even more dangerous. Instead of legislating things, get the word out to people about how dangerous it really is. Especially teens who maybe haven’t considered the consequences of their actions (serious injury and death are greater deterrents than a ticket). But if they refuse to listen and must text, they should at least do it at eye level so that peripheral vision is on the road.

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  10. Problem #1: States are in desperate need of revenue.
    Problem #2: Inept politicians who are unable to figure out real solutions to real problems.
    Problem #3: Media blowing up a non-issue to create panic.

    Political Synergy: Address a fake issue (media hyped texting BS) to hide the fact you’ve no answers for real issues (terrorism, economy) while addressing the only issue you really care about (money in state coffers).

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