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What will make drivers stop texting?

Despite the very real hazards, texting while driving is very common among teenagers, a new survey shows.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 8, 2012 9:51AM

This post comes from Des Toups at partner site on MSN MoneyText messaging from behind the wheel is illegal in 39 states.

Image: Car Accident (© Robert J. Bennett/age fotostock)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 and MSN Money:

Jun 8, 2012 2:35PM

Phone in trunk of 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 ???????????


Jun 8, 2012 2:18PM
lets not just blame have just as many adults texting as you do teens...figure out a way to make phones unable to text if moving more then 5mph..I am sure with todays technology the phone companies are capable of anything 
Jun 8, 2012 3:29PM
Texting is only part of the problem. It seems distracted driving in general is on the rise. While riding with my son a while back, I actually saw someone with a magazine spread out on the steering wheel in front of him! People just don't realize that by engaging in behaviors like that, they're basically playing Russian roulette. It's only a matter of time before the result is catastrophic.
Jun 8, 2012 2:23PM
This should be an automatic $1000 fine and suspension of drivers license for 6 months.  Law enforcement has got to get serious about this.
Jun 8, 2012 3:39PM
Although the cell phone (now SMART phone) is one of the handiest gadgets to come down the pike in the last 20 years, I have NEVER been able to believe that some mobile call (or a text message) is so critically important  it just can't wait for a few minutes until the driver has stopped the vehicle in a safe location,  and then engage in the conversation.  The current mind-set apparently is that the call (or message) MUST be responded to RIGHT NOW!  Unless the person is a transplant surgeon, this is just totally wrong.  Sorry to say, common sense is just NOT common place, and that applies to adults who should know better, as well as youthful drivers.  Stupid decisions, like talking and texting while driving, are costing treasure and lives.  This wrecklessness just has to STOP.  Perhaps a mandatory sensor built into the car that will only allow notification of a call or text, but will jam signals (in and out) until the ignition is turned off.  Sounds harsh, but maybe harsh measures are desparately needed. 
Jun 8, 2012 4:33PM
I can't fathom this texting thing at all.  All the 20 somethings here in downtown Philly are texting away, walking down the sidewalks right into you.  Just this morning it was perilous crossing the street in a crowd where I had a young guy crossing from the other side and walking right into me while he texted.  I don't care if he gets run over by a car, but I don't want to just because I couldn't get around that a$$hole and out of the street.  So texters, if you want to walk in front of a moving train, be my guest, but don't take me with you because you're  looking down at a screen and not even seeing me trying to get around.  I'm sick and tired of being an invisible person to these sidewalk texters and I don't want to be killed on the road because of them.  I KNOW how bad it is because I see them on the train every day, all texting away.  It seems to me the young crowd these days thinks the whole world wants to know every stinking thing they do all day long.  Well, I don't, so count me out.  Sorry, but they're not as interesting as they think they are.
Jun 8, 2012 2:43PM
The headline reads Will they ever stop texting ? The answer is yes, when they are dead!
Jun 8, 2012 3:34PM
I don't text or even talk on my cell phone when driving.  Having a manual transmission makes it incredibly hard to do anything but...clutch, shift, gas, clutch, shift, gas, clutch, shift, gas through 5 gears.  Maybe all the young folks should have to drive a car with a manual transmission for the first ten years of licensed driving.
Jun 8, 2012 3:32PM
people who say this is the same as kids and passangers, radios etc. are complete idiots.  I can talk and still see the road. Texting is reading and writing while driving.  Think someone should read the paper on their way to work, how about a book.  Maybe finish writing their term paper would be a good idea while they drive, all same as texting.  Solution is in making the car block all use of phones unless stopped. 

Jun 8, 2012 11:02PM
Texting needs to be treated as a DUI and put in jail . Texting is a crime plain and simple.
Jun 8, 2012 4:12PM
@diana-  you are a moron especially if you are one of those moronic women that think just because you can do it and haven't had it bite you in the a## yet makes it safe for you to do.  you are doing shi# other than driving and that means your attention is not on the road like it should be. god forbid a small child should run into the street when you are around, they'd be a pancake and you would be sitting there bit#hing because you makeup just got ruined.  Stop being a lazy bitc# and wake up 10 mins earlier and do that shi# at home.  dumba$$ people like you are the reason these laws exist in the first place and I can't wait for the day we get to see you're picture here.  And FYI the judge in your case FUC$ED UP, you were about to try breaking the law and pass on the right, by definition that makes you partly responsable for the accident, if you had been obeying the law and gotten behind the guy in the fast lane instead of breaking the law and passing illegally then the accident would never have happened. that being said please shut your mouth.
Jun 8, 2012 3:38PM
The real shame of all of this is that these idiots DESTROY OTHER LIVES along with their own death.
This is sick, he was breaking the law and killed three people doing it, what kind of judge gives him a year, he should have gotten 20 for each death. This is wrong. You get more time for selling a joint.
Jun 8, 2012 2:49PM
its not only kids , i see plenty of "adults" also. my wife and i drove next to a police officer texting while he was driving. we are always amazed at why people need to be on that that damn cell while they drive.
Jun 8, 2012 3:27PM
It's become like a plague, this thing with all the technology in vehicles.  And it's damn near incurable.  Even with the threat of fines and revocation of license, it does no good.  Why is it we still hear about drivers being arrested without licenses and insurance?  Three strikes and you're out is not a viable option.  Maybe a stiffer penalty for the first offense would work.  It's time to stop the coddling. 
Jun 8, 2012 2:59PM

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

Jun 8, 2012 5:33PM
I'll never understand the allure. I pick up the phone, call who I need to and talk to them for 30 seconds and put the phone down. Done.
Jun 8, 2012 3:49PM
When you are dealing with idiots you must sometimes force the issue. Fines, jail time and revoked licenses will not work. There are too many to catch even a small percent. A jammer is the answer. Make it mandatory and impossible to circumvent. Saftey is much more important than convenience. Your conversation can wait.
Jun 8, 2012 3:34PM
We have become a nation of people obsessed with talking.  It's almost like we are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.  I have friends that try and call me on their cells when they travel.  Many of them have an hour commute each way each day and they call because thet get bored.  I usually won't answer when they call unless they leave some kind of voice message indicating some need other then chat.  I don't text and people who know me don't send me text.  I own 3 cell phones.  I carry one, my mother in law carries one and my wife has one.  I average 4 calls per month and use about 7 and 1/2 minutes, the  wife is about double that.  I don't monitor the mother in laws usage but totally we use under 200 minutes each month.  There really is no need to constantly talk or text anyone.  Even at the house on a land line we try and observer the 3 minute egg timer rule.  If you can't say it in 3 minutes you haven't thought about it enough.  Spend some time with your thoughts, listen to a tune keep your eyes in a constant scan of the road, mirrors and dash to monitor your driving, others around you and your vehicles operation. I don't mean to lecture and am sorry if it sounds like one but take a few minutes and examine your behavoir. If you think you are doing something that impacts others like texting or talking when driving then do something bout it.
Jun 8, 2012 4:32PM
As Ron White so eloquently put it....
"You can't cure stupid."

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