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Help Change Cellphone and Texting Laws for Drivers

Posted by 4love2love on June 26, 2011

Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal’s publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Drivers talking on cell phones were 18 percent slower to react to brake lights, the new study found. In a minor bright note, they also kept a 12 percent greater following distance. But they also took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. Think the risks aren’t serious?

From Live Science

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Study

On July 27, 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released preliminary findings of their study of driver distraction in commercial vehicles. Several naturalistic driving studies, of long-haul trucks as well as lighter vehicles driving six million combined miles, used video cameras to observe the drivers and road. Researchers observed 4,452 “safety-critical” events, which includes crashes, near crashes, safety-critical events, and lane deviations. 81% of the “safety-critical” events involved some type of driver distraction. Text messaging had the greatest relative risk, with drivers of heavy vehicles or trucks being more than 23 times more likely to experience a safety-critical event when texting. The study also found that drivers typically take their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of four out of six seconds when texting, and an average of 4.6 out of the six seconds surrounding safety-critical events. The study revealed that when traveling at 55 miles per hour (89 km/h), a driver texting for 6 seconds is looking at the phone for 4.6 seconds of that time and travels the distance of a football field without their eyes on the road. Some of VTTI’s conclusions from this study included that “texting should be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers”, and that “all cell phone use should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers”. The results of the study are listed in the table below.

Risk Increases of Cell Phone Tasks by Vehicle Type
Cell phone task Risk of crash or near event crash
Light Vehicle Dialing 2.8 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Light Vehicle Talking/Listening 1.3 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Light Vehicle Reaching for object (i.e. electronic device…) 1.4 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Dialing 5.9 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Talking/Listening 1.0 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Use/Reach for electronic device 6.7 times as high as non‐distracted driving
Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Text messaging 23.2 times as high as non‐distracted driving

What’s worse is that some states don’t even have laws protecting people from others using their cell phones while driving. Most often, the offense is treated with a fine, though in some states, it’s possible to receive jail time. Take a look at some of the more notable crashes caused by cell phone use while driving (from Wikipedia):

Notable crashes

  • On August 29, 2007, Danny Oates was killed by a young driver of a car, allegedly texting while driving. The defense had argued that driver Jeffrey Woods had possibly suffered a seizure during the time of the accident.
  • On January 3, 2008, Heather Leigh Hurd was killed by a truck driver who allegedly was texting while driving. Her father Russell Hurd has been actively supporting a law in various U.S. states called Heather’s Law that would prohibit texting while driving.
  • The 2008 Chatsworth train collision, which killed 25 people, and which occurred on September 12, 2008, was blamed on the operator sending text messages while operating the train.

Not to mention the heartache and risk to children who are also injured or die during accidents caused by cell phone use while driving. People need to understand the laws of their state and try to encourage states without strong laws to pass them for everyone’s safety.

I’ve been tempted to use a cell phone while driving, however, I made it a habit only if I was completely stopped in traffic or if I had a place to pull over. Otherwise, the cell phone goes to voice mail which can be checked at any time and phone calls returned. There is no huge emergency that can’t wait when you are driving and have a cell phone with you. That call is not as important as yours or others lives.

Life is precious, we should protect it. Please do not use your cell phone while driving unless you are using a hands free set and keep your hands on the wheel regardless of the conversation. If the conversation is particularly heated or involved, ask the person to call back later to discuss it in a time when you are not driving several hundred or thousand pounds of a lethal weapon.

Think of it this way – would you want the bus driver that drives your children to and from school to be in the middle of a discussion while driving? Would you want to be on public transportation where the driver/controller was arguing with his/her spouse about dinner plans for their anniversary? Would you want to be stuck behind or in front of a driver who’s telling mom that she had to make a stop at a friend’s house and you have to stop suddenly to prevent hitting a dog or a car or person? What if they don’t notice your brake lights and slam right into the back of your car? Do you really want to see any of those things happen to anyone else? What if it was your mother, your father, your sister or brother, their children, grandchildren or your own child? Could you really live with yourself if you did nothing to help change the laws that could save theirs?

I know I couldn’t. I followed a story about a little boy that was strapped into his car seat, a whole 4 years old when a teenage girl who was texting while driving slammed full speed into the back of their SUV. They had stopped at an intersection. Both parents were injured, not severely, but the little boy had serious injuries that required multiple surgeries, including brain surgery to relieve the fluid building up in his brain from massive head trauma. He survived, barely, but what if he hadn’t? I saw the wreckage and I have to say that it’s amazing that anyone survived that wreck. All because of a little cell phone. Remember, the people using their phones don’t always survive the accidents, either.

Do what’s right. Fight for your state to make and enforce strongly laws about using cell phones while driving. It’s a horrible tragedy to see so many lives taken because an invention allowed people to be accessed in places they shouldn’t be – while driving. Most of my friends leave their cell phones alone while driving and won’t answer them at all until they have parked somewhere or have pulled off to the side of the road. Seeing that story about that little boy and seeing the pictures of the damage and his healing process had a huge impact on the way I think about cell phone use. I hope some of the information provided to you does.

The following is taken from the Insurance Institute for Highway safety. It shows the laws in your state and note the states without such laws. Please, please try to encourage lawmakers to make laws where none exist, disallowing the use of cell phones while driving under any circumstances.

June 2011


Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Utah has named the offense careless driving. Under the Utah law, no one commits an offense when speaking on a cellphone unless they are also committing some other moving violation other than speeding.

The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 30 states and the District of Columbia and the use of all cellphones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia. (Doesn’t that scare you? Only 19 states prohibit a School Bus Driver from using cell phones. Who’s watching the road or the kids in the rest of the states?)

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in 7 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in 3 states (Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas). (Even worse news considering that texting takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road!)

Many localities have enacted their own bans on cellphones or text messaging. In some but not all states, local jurisdictions need specific statutory authority to do so.

The table and maps below show the states that have cellphone laws, whether they specifically ban text messaging, and whether they are enforced as primary or secondary laws. Under secondary laws, an officer must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary.

Laws restricting cellphone use and texting
State Hand-held ban Young drivers all cellphone ban Bus drivers all cellphone ban Texting ban
Alabama no drivers age 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months no drivers age 16 and 17-year-old drivers who have held an intermediate license for fewer than 6 months
Alaska no no no all drivers
Arizona no no school bus drivers no
Arkansas drivers 18 or older but younger than 21 (effective since 10/01/09) school and highway work zones(effective 10/01/11) drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
California all drivers drivers younger than 18 school and transit bus drivers all drivers
Colorado no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers
Connecticut all drivers drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
Delaware all drivers learner’s permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers
District of Columbia all drivers learner’s permit holders school bus drivers all drivers
Florida no no no no
Georgia no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
Hawaii no no no no
Idaho no no no no
Illinois drivers in construction and school speed zones drivers younger than 19 and learner’s permit holders younger than 19 school bus drivers all drivers
Indiana no drivers younger than 18 no all drivers (effective 07/01/11)
Iowa no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders no all drivers
Kansas no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders no all drivers
Kentucky no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
Louisiana with respect to novice drivers, see footnote2 school bus drivers all drivers all drivers (effective 09/13/11)
Maryland all drivers learner’s permit and provisional license holders younger than 18 school bus drivers (hand-held ban) all drivers
Massachusetts no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers and passenger bus drivers all drivers
Michigan no no no all drivers
Minnesota no learner’s permit holders and provisional license holders during the first 12 months after licensing school bus drivers all drivers
Mississippi no no school bus drivers(effective 07/01/11) learner’s permit and intermediate license holders (effective since 07/01/09) and school bus drivers(effective 07/01/11)
Missouri no no no drivers 21 and younger
Montana no no no no
Nebraska no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders younger than 18 no all drivers
Nevada all drivers (effective 01/01/12) no no all drivers (effective 01/01/12)
New Hampshire no no no all drivers
New Jersey all drivers learner’s permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers
New Mexico no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders
New York all drivers no no all drivers
North Carolina no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
North Dakota no drivers younger than 18 (effective 01/01/12) no all drivers (effective 08/01/11)
Ohio no no no no
Oklahoma learner’s permit and intermediate license holders no
Oregon all drivers drivers younger than 18 no all drivers
Pennsylvania no no no no
Rhode Island no drivers younger than 18 school bus drivers all drivers
South Carolina no no no no
South Dakota no no no no
Tennessee no learner’s permit and intermediate license holders school bus drivers all drivers
Texas drivers in school crossing zones drivers younger than 18 (effective 09/01/11) bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present bus drivers when a passenger 17 and younger is present; drivers in school crossing zones; drivers younger than 18 (effective 09/01/11)
Utah all drivers no no all drivers
West Virginia no drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license no drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner’s permit or an intermediate license
Wisconsin no no no all drivers
Wyoming no no no all drivers

1The laws in Arkansas and California prohibit police from stopping a vehicle to determine if a driver is in compliance with the law. Clearly, that language prohibits the use of checkpoints to enforce the law, but it has been interpreted as the functional equivalent of secondary provisions that typically state the officer may not stop someone suspected of a violation unless there is other, independent, cause for a stop.

2In Louisiana, all learner’s permit holders, irrespective of age, and all intermediate license holders are prohibited from driving while using a hand-held cellphone and all drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using any cellphone. Effective April 1, 2010 all drivers, irrespective of age, issued a first driver’s license will be prohibited from using a cellphone for one year. The cellphone ban is secondary for novice drivers age 18 and older.

3In Oklahoma, learner’s permit and intermediate license holders are banned from using a hand-held electronic device while operating a motor vehicle for non-life-threatening emergency purposes.

4Utah’s law defines careless driving as committing a moving violation (other than speeding) while distracted by use of a hand-held cellphone or other activities not related to driving.

Sources :

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Live Science

Wikipedia : Texting While Driving

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