What will make drivers stop texting?
Despite the very real hazards, texting while driving is very common among teenagers, a new survey shows.
This post comes from Des Toups at partner site CarInsurance.com.
Yet on Thursday -- the day after a Massachusetts teen was sentenced to a year in jail for a deadly crash prosecutors blamed on texting -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new survey that found more than half of high school seniors had texted while driving in the past month.
(Post continues below video.)The Natoinal Safety Council estimated in 2011 that 23% of all traffic crashes involved cellphone use, including 100,000 from texting. A survey from AAA found that 95% of drivers view texting or email on a par with intoxicated driving.
Drivers whose noses are buried in their smartphones clearly have missed the message.
Or have they?
- Thirty-nine states outlaw driver texting, but only 10 states and the District of Columbia ban handheld cellphones, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Massachusetts provides a criminal penalty for the harm a texting driver inflicts on others through negligence. But six states don't address texting at all: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota.
- Five other states -- Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas -- prohibit texting only for novice drivers, as if it were a skill to be acquired with time and maturity.
- Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Virginia ban texting for all drivers but don't allow police to make a stop unless the driver has committed another infraction, such as speeding.
- West Virginia assesses three points against a driver's motor vehicle record after a third offense. Most other states simply let the matter drop with a fine.
A small fine -- or a ruined life
Massachusetts law enforcement has issued more than 1,700 tickets since texting was outlawed in 2010.
The teen driver sentenced there, Aaron Deveau of Haverhill, will spend a year in jail and lose his driver's license for 15 years. He was the second driver convicted under the negligence provision.
But there is a chasm between the penalties faced by drivers who text and hurt someone and drivers who text and are merely ticketed. Drivers who don't injure anyone face a $100 fine, and the offense isn't a moving violation; thus, the driver's insurance rates are unaffected.
State legislatures use driver's licenses as a club to enforce societal norms. You can lose your driving privileges for curfew violations, public intoxication, driving off without paying for gas, graffiti, prostitution or vandalism. In Massachusetts, you can lose your driver's license for failing to pay child support or your state taxes.
But you can't lose it for texting unless you kill someone. Surely there is a middle ground.
Penalizing texting as a moving violation would put points on driver's licenses and contribute toward license suspensions, two sins painfully reflected in car insurance rates -- but far less painful than a year in jail and a lifetime of regret.
A federal carrot-and-stick approach
When Google runs the world, we'll be able to text and drive all we want. (See "Will driverless cars cut your rates 80%?")
Until then, mere disapproval of the practice clearly isn't working. The CDC found not only that one-third of the teenagers it surveyed had texted while driving in the last 30 days, but that high school seniors were more likely to text than juniors -- 58% vs. 43%.
That trend could undo the tremendous strides the CDC reported in improved seat belt use and decreased drunken driving. Just 8% of high schoolers reported they never or rarely wore a seat belt, down from 26% in 1997. The percentage who said they had driven after consuming alcohol fell to 8%, down from 17% in 1997.
The federal government doesn't have the power to ban texting, but it does have the power to withhold highway funds to compel states to pass laws -- a strategy that worked to lower thresholds for intoxicated driving to 0.08% in every state.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday that the Obama administration would provide $2.4 million to fund texting and cellphone crackdown projects in California and Delaware. The National Transportation Safety Board has already called for a complete ban on use of all mobile devices while driving.
"If we could get all 50 states to pass a law, that would send a message," LaHood says. "Me, personally, I'd be for a national ban. I'm going to leave it up to Congress to decide what they want to do."
More from CarInsurance.com and MSN Money:
- Rates in every ZIP code: See how your neighborhood stacks up
- What you need to know about cheap student car insurance
- 3 ways to save the most money on car insurance
- How does your car insurance compare?
- How drunks keep on driving
- Lost art of the turn signal
Phone in trunk of car....drive to destination.......remove phone from trunk of car....USE......
It's a simple way to remove the temptation to answer it when someone calls mid-drive.
Now that they are handing out YEARS for causing an accident because of the phone it seems like a damn smart thing to do......
Once you've driven over that kid in the crosswalk because you just HAD TO tell your buds that you are 10 minutes out, you are effectively SCREWED.
Phones and call logs both document the EXACT time you used your phone last(as the Mass. teen just found out) and you can deny your foul up until your tongue falls out but you will still serve time.
Is the phone call/text you JUST HAD TO MAKE really worth it ???????????
simple four part cure make auto manucactures put in a device that blocks all texting and phone calls except for 911 calls or if a vehicle is stoopped and out of gear.
report anyone who is texting or yacking on the phone to the 911 opertor have the law enforcement pull them over
fine the hell out of them& with jail time no excuses ! unless you made the call while pulled over in a safe area
then report them to the insurance company and raise their rates really high too many people are killing and crippling innocent victums due to their neglegance make it hurt them so they will not do that
"You can't cure stupid."
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