No Phone Zone Pledge

by

Don’t Get Caught DEAD Texting While Driving!

Driving while texting (DWT) is a serious threat to public safety. It is as dangerous as driving while under the influence (DWI).

On average it takes a motorist DWT 25 ft longer to stop than an undistracted driver. For comparison, a motorist DWI takes 4 ft longer to stop than an unimpaired driver. Motorists who text while driving are 23 times more likely than non-distracted drivers to be involved in an accident. More than 20 percent of all crashes in the U.S. in 2008 involved distracted drivers, resulting in nearly 5,870 deaths and 515,000 injuries. Why isn’t there more legislation to address these preventable deaths? Current state DWT bans vary in severity and scope. At present, only 30 states punish motorists for DWT and in many states, such as Virginia, it is only a secondary offense. As such, the driver is only fined if pulled over for another offense.

A law banning texting while driving in Virginia was passed in July 2009, but few citations have been issued partly due to the fact that texting while driving is only a secondary offense.

***Numerous studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects of texting on driving performance. The time has come for Virginia legislators to make DWT a primary offense with stiffer fines and license points for each citation. ***

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12 Responses to “No Phone Zone Pledge”

  1. Eugenia Pyntikova Says:

    As a law enforcement stakeholder, I would be attracted by the fact that texting while driving is, by definition, a documented offense. The verification of whether a person texted or read a text would be simple and low cost. However, there is also the concern that a person would delete the messages if stopped. Can an officer issue a citation based only on her/his observation of the driver looking at the phone? What if they were dialing a number or turning the phone off? Neither of those is an offense in VA. So…I think my point is that the implementation costs in terms of specific policy development, officer training, and citizen communication may outweigh the perceived threat to the community from texting while driving (however incorrect that perception may be).

    In addition, citizen rights advocates might be expected to push back with concerns of individual privacy regarding the personal messages and the right to check the phone for messages in an emergency.

    Finally, I wonder what you mean when you say the law hasn’t been enforced because it’s a “secondary offense.” Does this mean that texting is an aggravating circumstance, but not a punishable offense in itself?

  2. gpalamaners Says:

    In India since the year 2005 there is a nation wide ban on the use of cell phones while driving any kind of vehicle on the road. Cell phone use (talking, texting, switching it on or off or any handling of cell phones) while driving is considered a primary offence that is punishable by law. The offender will be fined $10 dollars (Rs 500) for this offence. This is indeed a policy that should be welcomed because the drivers attention is entirely on driving if he is not using the cell phone and this will prevent many accidents. Since cell phone use is totally banned while driving issues like breach on Individual privacy when the policeman tries to read the message when caught using the cell phone does not arise.

    However, the extent to which this law is followed in India is a good question. People know ways to escape the law. There is a common belief among policemen and general public that this is too small an offence that deserves punishment. This law is more often used by dishonest policemen to collect bribes than for public interest. Very often we can hear them say “If you pay the fine it is $10 dollars, but if you pay me it is $5 dollars”.

    Last December we completed a survey (Unpublished data) on the use of cell phones among people who were admitted to the emergency department of Sri Ramachandra University, a tertiary care medical center in Chennai, India following road traffic accidents. To our surprise we found that nearly 40% of people who were hurt still continued to use cell phones even though the law was in effect.

    So having a good policy in iteself is not going to improve social welfare but it has to be implemented in the correct sense. This law if followed correctly will definitely reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with road traffic accidents.

  3. Dave Auerbach Says:

    The dangers of general cell phone use are all too well known to us all. When a driver is inattentive (red or green, don’t they have any color you like?) or driving erratically we invariably view them with a phone to the ear. Texting is akin to reading a book while driving, it is impossible to be attentive to both. While DWT is often a labeled as secondary offense, it can be hard to prove as emailing, inexplicably, is often not included as a prohibited activity. For once I think that more laws are needed, DWT is a definite and easily prohibited activity.

  4. eljhsph Says:

    I think that texting while driving actually needs to be included in a more comprehensive list of punishable offenses related to distracted driving. If I were a police officer watching a person text, I might not be able to determine what they were doing specifically, especially if they were in a truck/SUV and they had their device in their lap. For all I know they are texting, dialing, looking at a map, or searching their iPod for a song. Any way you cut it, they are distracted and pose a potential threat to other drivers.
    I also wonder how many minor accidents related to texting are never reported as such. When a person rolls into another car at a stop sign because they are texting, I doubt that most of them will admit to it, especially when damage is minor and no one is injured. I personally know of multiple people who have done this, but merely paid for the damage and didn’t involve the authorities.

  5. Rose Says:

    I don’t know what the answer for this law which is widely flouted in many settings, from Maryland to Mumbai.

    I just wanted to comment that the billboards and advertisments with the word “yeah” — the last text of a girl killed in a car collison – are extremely affecting. They are part of a campaign by AT&T to stop driving while texting.

    Here is an article about a girl who died after receiving the text, “where you at”
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/wireless/2010-03-07-teendriving_N.htm

    Young people but especially young men are more risk takers … Not as likely to be swayed by “yeah” — any thoughts as to what would dissuade them?

  6. eshouldice Says:

    I’m really interested in the comparison of texting while driving being similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. Do you have a resource for that? It’d be great to be able to quote that to patients!

  7. gingershu Says:

    I think the any campaign to address texting while driving is the same as addressing the process of DUI – if the person behind the wheel does not possess the sense of responsibility to take safety seriously enough to NOT text (or drink) while driving, legislation will only have limited impact. Are there anti-DUI laws in place? Yes. Does DUI-related accidents and deaths still happen? Yes! Even if texting while driving is made punishable by law, it will only act as a deterrent to those who are likely to think twice before texting while driving in the first place – not everyone. My pessimism stems from living in Taiwan, where the law-abiding citizen is an exception, not the norm.

  8. Adaora Chima Says:

    Many accidents that occur are often followed by claims that “He came out of nowhere”, “I just looked away for a second!”. Often,that’s all it takes, one second. Checking your phone to make sure words were typed in correctly could make the difference between ramming into a vehicle in front of you and arriving at your destination without incident.DWT requires the brain to articulate what the sender wants to say while making the right decisions on the road. Ever tried carrying out two mental activities and done both well? Ironically most messages sent while driving are often not emergencies and could have been done later or at worst, at the next red light. Light penalties make it easy for people to risk getting caught. Stringent ones will definitely give recalcitrant ‘texters’ another reason to think twice.

  9. polinasn Says:

    Thank you so much for bringing up this important issue. Although currently there are only state laws regulating DWT, this issue has been gaining national attention. In January of 2010, The US Department of Transportation proposed a national ban on texting while driving that is currently being reviewed by the Senate. The US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, has been an strong advocate for this ban.

    Over the past decade, our society (in the US and abroad) has become more and more dependent on our mobile devices. While these devices provide for some amazing technological advances, we do need to be aware of the serious public health risks these devices pose. Data clearly indicates that texting while driving is a serious safety concern. In fact, this link is so strong that even unexpected stakeholders have come together on this issue to support the ban. These stakeholders include telephone companies, car companies, the trucking industry, police enforcement and government officials.

    Everyone recognizes that there is some difficulty in enforcing a ban on texting while driving. Despite this, police officers often note that they can quickly recognize an unsafe driver on the road. This then allows the officer to stop the individual and find out the cause of the unsafe driving. In addition, phone records can be subpoenaed in cases of accidents. If it is publicly known that anyone’s phone records can be subpoenaed for unsafe driving, maybe the public will start to abide by the regulation? Additionally, in the future there may be devices available that will actually be able to shut down any device that can distract a driver once the car is in motion. All of these ideas may help with enforcement, but most importantly, this issue needs to grow in the eyes of the public to become a personal concern for every individual.

    If we all share the road and we all share a concern for our individual safety, shouldn’t we share the responsibility of keeping our roads safe?

  10. Repeal_The_Va_Radar_Detector_Ban Says:

    As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.
    *** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***

    Please sign this petition and help to repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

    http://www.stoptheban.org

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/repeal-the-virginia-radar-detector-ban

  11. vbhise Says:

    I feel that more strict punishments should be handed out for offenders who are texting or talking on cell phone.
    A recent Hollywood movie ” Seven pounds” strongly gave out the message to the people.
    I feel that even though people are well educated and know that texting/using cellular phone is bad, they still do it on a frequent basis. Its similar to exercise, everyone knows u got to do it, but only 30% actually do it.
    Regulation is thus very important in this issue. If a policy is introduced which fines people heavily it can play a big role in preventing many accidental injuries. I feel the States should take up the responsibility and introduce a stringent and strict policy.

  12. shaymes Says:

    Several studies comparing drunk driving and cell phone use have been conducted. For example, a study carried out at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Oscoda, Michigan, used two drivers in real cars and measured reaction-times to the onset of light on the windshield. The study compared the reaction times and distances of the subjects while reading a text message, replying to the text message, and impaired. The study showed that at 35 mph, reading a text message increased the reaction time the most, 0.12 and 0.87 seconds. Impaired driving at the same speed resulted in an increase of 0.01 and 0.07 seconds. In terms of stopping distances these times were estimated to mean:

    Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
    Legally drunk: add 4 feet
    Reading e-mail: add 36 feet.
    Sending a text: add 70 feet

    Cell phone use, be it talking or texting is a great risk, as are any distractions whilst driving. We need to teach our kids this when they begin learning to drive and keep reminding ourselves of this by being good role models.

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