Distracted Driving: Government Pursues Texting Law The Senate is currently considering two bills that would encourage states to pass laws curbing distracted driving. One bill offers a carrot-financial incentives to states that pass a distracted driving law; the other offers a stick-reduced federal highway funds to states that don’t.[Consumer Reports Cars]

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  1. redskull says:

    I’m all for some kind of anti-texting bill, but realistically, how do they imagine such a law would be enforced?

    Most cities and states are cash-strapped as it is; they’re not going to be able to hire texting cops.

    If I see someone in the next car texting, should I text the police and tell them about it?

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @redskull: i’m pretty sure we have something on the books for “distracted driving” – i know the term was thrown around on local news stations.

      I think we’d need a more encompassing law, instead of banning these things one at a time – is there anything on the books to prevent me from watching movies while i drive? reading a book or the newspaper?

  2. stopNgoBeau says:

    Sounds like legalized bribery / extortion to me.

  3. Quatre707 says:

    If a cop pulled me over for “texting” while driving, I’d just say I was looking at the time or seeing why my phone vibrated (such as an incoming text). How can this possible be enforced?

    • NightSteel says:

      @Quatre707: By subpoenaing your telephone records and seeing if text messages were traveling to or from your phone at the time you were clipped for it. They do it in the case of accidents, they can do it for tickets too.

  4. zombies.like.lattés.too says:

    The linked article says that in order to qualify for funding “the state law must make a violation a primary offense, which means that police can pull over a driver without any other moving violation.”

    So, on what grounds exactly could a police officer pull over a driver if they’re not committing a moving violation? Aren’t there people committing actual moving violations that we ought to be worried about?

  5. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    “Some exceptions include calling 911, use by emergency personnel, and using the phone in a parked vehicle.”

    So, calling 911 wouldn’t be distracting? Emergency personnel are somehow not distracted by texting? Some snide comment about doing stuff in a parked vehicle, preferably around not knocking?

    Thanks, government. All I gotta figure out is how to text on the objects I perpetually have in my hands while driving: electric razor, cheeseburger, and Glock.

  6. NightSteel says:

    Mandatory short-range in-vehicle cell phone jammers that activate when the vehicle is in motion. Simple and effective. Need to make a call/text? Pull over. And there can be the usual exceptions for emergency services etc.

    The trick would be in jamming the signal inside the car without jamming anybody outside..

  7. NotYou007 says:

    Maine now has a distracted driver law. If an officer wants to they can now pull you over for eating while you are driving. You could have directions in your hand and if you look at them they can stop you. Fiddle with your GPS, they can stop you.

    A woman was charged under the law not long ago after she hit a tree while taking on her cell phone.

  8. Schildkrote says:

    Honestly, the only thing you should be legally allowed to do while driving?

    Drive.

    When you aren’t on the road endangering my welfare, then you can do whatever you want. Until then, please just drive.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      @Schildkrote: Do you pull over and park your vehicle before changing the radio station, adjusting climate controls, or taking a sip of coffee/soda?

      Odds are fairly good everyone would violate your “nothing but drive” law every time they get behind the wheel. Taken to the extreme, merely glancing at the speedometer or mirrors could be considered a distraction from driving. There are probably anecdotal accounts of accidents happening while these “safe driving” tasks take place.

      Eating while driving? A sloppy joe, no. How about a cereal bar? Probably a contributing cause to a accident in 1:1,000,000 incidents. Any insurance adjusters out there with actual numbers?

      So while banning texting while driving is probably too narrow in scope, your idea is probably too broad. As others have said, how about simply citing people who are driving unsafely? (crossing lanes of traffic, ignoring traffic signals, too fast, too slow, etc.) Whether they’re doing do because they’re drunk, texting, overtired, or simply preoccupied with other thoughts is irrelevant.

      • Schildkrote says:

        @mianne:

        Yeah, maybe that was a little overzealous. I agree – if we crack down on unsafe driving, we will by proxy be cracking down on unsafe driving practices.

  9. hi says:

    If states want to enact such laws they are free to do so. The federal government has no right (and they know they have no right) to tell the states what to do, which is why they are offering money to those who allow their rights to be taken away.

    If I was a governor of a state I’d tell them to stick their new law up their ass, and if they came into my state and tried to enforce such a law I would arrest them.

    I wish I knew how quotes work here but anyways:

    It offers financial incentives to states that enact texting bans, require using a hands-free cell phone device, and prohibit young drivers from using any cell phone while driving. To qualify for the grant money, there are a number of provisions:

    The state law must make a violation a primary offense, which means that police can pull over a driver without any other moving violation.
    Requires a minimum fine for first and increased penalties for subsequent violations.
    Civil and criminal penalties to a driver who causes an accident due to cell phone use.
    The subject of distracted driving must be added to the state’s driver’s license exam.

  10. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Maybe that will get cities like Detroit, where the ban was passed but the mayor (ex-mayor “Jailhouse” Kilpatrick) ordered the police to not enforce it, to pay a little attention to road-safety.

  11. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I don’t have any trouble texting and driving. Doing it right now! See, no probl*

  12. RevancheRM says:

    @Sneeje:
    “Chinese food”? Why only…n/m. Too easy.

  13. magic8ball says:

    @Sneeje: Yeah, this kind of puzzles me. Am I to understand that most states don’t already have some kind of distracted driving law that covers everything? If they do, then texting should already be covered by that law, so why make a whole extra law just for that? And why not also make one for reading a newspaper, and one for putting on makeup, and one for eating a rack of ribs, and so on?

  14. aCiD says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Ontario. Yea, not a state, but we just began having no cell phones for ANY purpose banned without a handsfree device here. And it is very actively enforced. Comically so.

  15. zombies.like.lattés.too says:

    @RevancheRM: Yes, you’ve cited the dangers of texting while driving. No one is disputing the fact that dividing your attention between the road and a cell phone screen/keyboard is a stupid thing to do. But your last sentence illustrates that you’ve missed my point. By all means, call in terrible distracted drivers who are crossing lane lines – they’re already committing a moving violation.

    If you’re distracted to the point that you’re breaking traffic laws, you should be pulled over. But this law about phone use and texting strikes me as useless. Why not just bust people who are already committing moving violations, regardless of whether they’re distracted by a phone or just a terrible driver?

  16. RevancheRM says:

    @zombies.like.lattés.too: Ok, I see your point, when made that way. But it still seems though the ticketing officer will need to document possible cause for the distraction: texting, one-handed cell convo, excessive nose-picking.

  17. Micromegas says:

    @gStein_has joined the star bandwagon: Just because you can come up with a convoluted excuse doesn’t mean the law is unenforceable. Try convincing a judge with that story and see how far it gets you.

  18. AD8BC says:

    @Applekid: It’s an end run around the 10th amendment — giving the federal government some leverage in making the states follow their lead, when the federal government wants to regulate something that the constitution doesn’t allow them to regulate.