States cracking down on distracted driving

More than half ban texting while driving

By Ed Greenberger, THELAW.TV

Cell phones are everywhere these days. That includes people using their phones in their cars and trucks, which can lead to distracted driving. This presents a safety issue on America's roads rivaling drunk driving. Many states have recently banned using cell phones or texting in vehicles. Now, in the wake of some horrific crashes, a federal agency is recommending a nationwide ban on commercial truckers using cell phones on the road.

On March 26, 2010, a tractor-trailer slammed head-on into a van in Kentucky, killing 11 people. After the fiery crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that distraction from the truck driver's cell phone likely caused the accident. And in September 2011, the NTSB suggested the federal government should prohibit America's commercial truck drivers from using cell phones in their trucks.

Obviously, big rigs can do more damage than a passenger car or SUV. But any vehicle can become deadly if the driver is paying attention to a cell phone instead of the road.

More than half of all states have begun to regulate or prohibit texting while driving. According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 34 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. But these days, cell phones don't just make phone calls and allow you to text. Smartphones allow you to listen to music, use GPS programs, read emails and do many other things that will keep your eyes off the road. For that reason, nine states and the District of Columbia have banned all uses of handheld cell phones on the road.

"Although these laws exist in several states, police departments have found them difficult to enforce," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV .

In the states where it is illegal to text message in a car but legal to use a cell phone, police officers have a tough time figuring out what they're seeing. What looks like a driver typing out a text message could be the driver dialing a phone number or typing an address into a smartphone-based GPS application. According to a PBS Newshour report, not a single citation was issued for texting while driving in Tennessee in the first three months after lawmakers issued a statewide ban.

"Whatever message anyone thinks is important, is not nearly as important as the lives they would potentially save by waiting till they reached their destination before sending a text" says Detroit, Michigan personal injury attorney Sheldon Miller . "Causing an innocent persons injury or death is something they would regret for the rest of their lives"


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