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  1. #1
    Piggybank Cop's Avatar
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    Should 'DWT' be new 'DWI'?

    Should driving while texting be a crime?
    Sending and receiving text messages has joined talking on a cell phone as a dangerous distraction for drivers. State legislators are taking notice.

    By The Wall Street Journal

    During the morning rush hour on Dec. 5, the 53-year-old driver of a blue Dodge Caravan was traveling north on Interstate 5 outside Seattle when he took his eyes off the road to scan an e-mail on his BlackBerry, the State Patrol says. And that's how he hit the white Mazda, which clipped the green Honda, which rammed the black Toyota SUV before spinning into the other lane and plowing into a city bus.

    Nobody was seriously hurt. But the episode sparked a chain reaction of a different sort in the Washington State Legislature in the form of a bill that would make it a crime to "operate a motor vehicle while reading, writing or sending electronic messages."

    "I think just about everyone realizes that text messaging while driving should not be acceptable," says Joyce McDonald, the bill's sponsor. But the Republican member of the Washington House of Representatives also recognizes that people call it "CrackBerry" for a reason: She cheerfully admits she'd probably scan her own device on the drive to work "if I didn't need my reading glasses to see e-mail."

    Forget DWI. The big new traffic-safety issue is DWT: Driving While Texting.

    McDonald is joining a crowd of politicians seeking a crackdown. In neighboring Oregon, pending bills would provide fines -- up to $720 in one of them -- for any driver caught texting or holding a cell phone to an ear. And in Arizona, a bill is pending that would make DWT a ticketable offense.

    DWT is an extreme version of a whole new class of modern "distracted driving" issues lawmakers are wrestling with as electronic devices become an ever more important part of people's lives, in and out of their automobiles. Lawmakers are being encouraged by insurance companies like Allstate, which has added an e-mail fanatic to its stable of "multitasker" safe-driving ads. The campaign shows the "dedicated investor," who is balancing a BlackBerry and the business section of a newspaper on the wheel while he navigates his sports car through stop-and-go traffic. (Another scene in the ad shows a driver changing his trousers while blazing down the highway).

    Driving while talking on cell phones has gotten the most legislative attention. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California and the District of Columbia outlaw the use of handheld phones while driving, and 38 states are currently considering 133 bills that would regulate their use behind the wheel, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Some wireless-industry supporters argue that statutes barring texting while driving are too specific. What is needed, they say, is not narrowly focused legislation, but a campaign to educate the public about all driver distractions. In Washington, D.C., an industry lobby group called CTIA -- The Wireless Association has begun tracking legislation, including McDonald's bill, and scratching out a strategy to counter it.

    "I don't think you'd find anyone who would say that trying to text and drive is not reckless behavior," says Joe Farren, spokesman for the group. "If you're being reckless, you should get a ticket." He adds that his group has taken no formal position on text-message bills such as McDonald's.

    Reading and typing in traffic
    Few driver distractions seem quite as frighteningly intrusive as attempting to read and type messages while weaving in traffic. The first reported incident of DWT may have been in Tennessee in 2005, when a man died while texting when he lost control of his pickup and plunged down an embankment. In Colorado that same year, a teenager served 10 days in jail after he struck and killed a bicyclist while texting a friend.

    A study conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance that was released this year found that 19% of all drivers -- and 37% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 27 -- text message behind the wheel. DWT seems particularly common among kids. McDonald first considered her ban last October, after she visited a high school and a group of students showed her how to send text messages by cell phone. "They were sending messages secretly while they were sitting in class," she says. "It wasn't long before it dawned on me that they were also texting while they were driving."

    The discovery enabled McDonald to find a quick cosponsor across the aisle in Democrat Dawn Morrell, who said she had seen her campaign manager texting behind the wheel. "Imagine these kids driving along while they're breaking up with their boyfriends or whatever," Morrell says. "We laugh but it's scary."

    At a recent hearing on the bill, McDonald and others testified before a largely impassive group of House Transportation Committee members. The legislature has turned down cell phone legislation eight years straight. But this time, it passed McDonald's bill. Many legislators seemed keen to enact some restrictions. One representative, Larry Seaquist, referred in the hearing to a bill that would "phase out" handheld wireless devices among drivers as "The Save My Wife's Life Act."

    Lobbyists swing into action
    Sprint Nextel, which opposes legislation that would limit wireless devices in cars, had a lobbyist that day in Olympia, Washington's capital. Sprint says curbing abuse is best handled through education and should focus on the full spectrum of driver distractions. The company has begun distributing a series of four posters to high schools around the country that highlight this strategy. One of the posters shows a burger and fries, while the others show a tube of mascara, a compact disc and a silver flip-top phone. The caption on the phone poster reads: "Cell Phone 4oz. Car 2,800 lbs. Taking the wheel is a ton of responsibility."

    Few opponents argue that driving and texting -- any more than driving and drinking -- is a good idea. Instead, opponents focus on the dearth of statistics showing that wireless devices cause crashes. Indeed, there are few data suggesting that texting causes more wrecks than, say, fast food. A study conducted by the state of Washington in 2006 blamed "driver distractions" for 7.5% of the 50,000 reported accidents during the first nine months of that year. Of that number, the study said distractions prompted by "operating a handheld communications device," including text messaging, came in fifth, statistically in line with the grab-bag category of "driver interacting with passengers, animals or objects."

    But police in Washington say not a day passes when they don't see a case of DWT, and that the statistics may not reflect the extent of the problem. Many wrecks have an undetermined cause, and DWT data rely on driver honesty. Current state law gives drivers little incentive to blab. The reward for honesty is a ticket for negligent operation of a vehicle, which draws a flat $538 fine.

    The only way to independently determine whether the devices were in use is cumbersome. Police would have to get a warrant to subpoena billing records. But it would be hard to talk a judge into granting such subpoenas for a fender bender.

    Trooper Jeff Merrill says the driver of the Dodge Caravan on Dec. 5 would almost certainly have gotten away with his carelessness had he not confessed. "He's been very upfront about it," Merrill says.

    Merrill says the biggest problem with McDonald's legislation may be its enforceability. Though McDonald says more than 80% of her constituents who text behind the wheel would probably knock it off if the practice were outlawed, Merrill is skeptical.

    "Hey, we've all done it one time or another, and I think people will continue to do it," Merrill says. "But if you're going to do it, you better be careful."

    This article was reported and written by Christopher Cooper for The Wall Street Journal.


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  2. #2
    gozling's Avatar
    gozling is offline the gene pool could use a little chlorine
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    geesh i am still just waiting for 'talking on cell phone' to be a citation here...
    lol
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  3. #3
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    In MN it is illegal for anyone on a provisional license to operate a vehicle and use a cell phone. A provisional license, "generally" is anyone under age 18.

    Which I think is ridiculous. They're trying to pass a bill now to make it illegal for anyone to use a cell phone while driving.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

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  4. #4
    BEB
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    I say we take all distractions out of cars. Also, lock up any pretty girls caught walking within sight of drivers.

    How is this going to be enforced anyway? Just another nonsense feel good law.

  5. #5
    Ducky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugEyedBeast View Post
    I say we take all distractions out of cars. Also, lock up any pretty girls caught walking within sight of drivers.

    How is this going to be enforced anyway? Just another nonsense feel good law.
    Might as well put really ugly people on that list too. I mean, have you ever looked back at someone and said "damn... just damn! Did you see that???" It's like watching a facial train wreck. Plain people on our roads only, please.
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  6. #6
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugEyedBeast View Post
    I say we take all distractions out of cars. Also, lock up any pretty girls caught walking within sight of drivers.

    How is this going to be enforced anyway? Just another nonsense feel good law.
    That's not the point.

    The idea is to removed as MANY distraction as possible.

    Our cell phone law is easy to enforce. If we see someone who we believe is under the age of 18 talking on a cell phone while driving, we can stop them.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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  7. #7
    BEB
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    Does the law include talking on a hands free cellphone?

  8. #8
    Piggybank Cop's Avatar
    Piggybank Cop is offline Nobody important.
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    And what do you do if after you have stopped them you find out they are not talking on a cell phone, hands free or otherwise, they are just having a conversation with the voices in their head?

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  9. #9
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugEyedBeast View Post
    Does the law include talking on a hands free cellphone?
    Our does, yes

    That is be difficult to enforce.
    You can't just stop a car because the driver is talking with no phone in sight.

    They might just be crazy and talking to themself.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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    The opinions, beliefs, and ideas expressed in this post are mine, and mine alone. They are NOT the opinions, beliefs, ideas, or policies of my Agency, Police Chief, City Council, or any member of my department.

  10. #10
    Ducky's Avatar
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    Not everyone who talks to themself is crazy, mostly I am just saying things that I wish I could really afford to tell people to their face. Many of which, if I did, would directly result in me landing in the ER.
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  11. #11
    BEB
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Our does, yes

    That is be difficult to enforce.
    You can't just stop a car because the driver is talking with no phone in sight.

    They might just be crazy and talking to themself.
    Accident occurs, driver is wearing a headset - take the scenario two ways, in one the other driver says they had it on and it is in evidence, other they're wearing it when you arrive - how do you charge?

    Driver denies being on a call at the time of the accident.

  12. #12
    jmur5074's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugEyedBeast View Post
    Accident occurs, driver is wearing a headset - take the scenario two ways, in one the other driver says they had it on and it is in evidence, other they're wearing it when you arrive - how do you charge?

    Driver denies being on a call at the time of the accident.
    Without an admission I wouldn't charge them for it. Thats just me.

    I would include the info on my accident report though.
    No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends - John 15:13

    "The Wicked Flee When No Man Pursueth: But The Righteous Are Bold As A Lion".

    We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

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  13. #13
    Piggybank Cop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugEyedBeast View Post
    Accident occurs, driver is wearing a headset - take the scenario two ways, in one the other driver says they had it on and it is in evidence, other they're wearing it when you arrive - how do you charge?

    Driver denies being on a call at the time of the accident.
    Note the time of the crash and the fact there is a possiblity of phone use; someone could check the phone records - insurance company, police.
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  14. #14
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    Just got off work...and didn't read the whole thread... BUT...

    Should driving while texting be a crime?
    Sending and receiving text messages has joined talking on a cell phone as a dangerous distraction for drivers. State legislators are taking notice.

    You know...it really pisses me off when people who CANT do something that I CAN do get jelous enough to want to outlaw it so we all can be the same again.

    Just because YOU (whoever 'you' applies to) can't do this...doen'st mean I'm not coordinated enough to handle it with ease. Why ban it? Just ticket the idiots who can't do it well.
    Stupidity Recognition Technician

  15. #15
    OffDuty's Avatar
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    Indiana being at the forefront of harsh law action, is considering passing a bill that would make cell phone use while driving an infraction worth TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS!

    I know this is shaking down the thunder with persons fearing the retribution of Johnny Law stopping you for such a flagrant violation.. Yeah, that will teach you.

    Shit, I barely have time to stop shitbirds for guns and drugs, let alone cell phones. We should be able to instead pull over, grab you r phone, smash it into the asphalt and say "you are free to go". That would do it.
    There are only two kinds of real justice left: street and poetic...


    Canada, huh? Almost made it...

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  16. #16
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    It is already illegal here to use a cell phone whilst driving.

    From February 27th this year, drivers automatically have their licence endorsed with three penalty points and receive a 60 fine, and any cases that reach court could involve discretionary disqualification and a maximum fine of 1,000 - or 2,500 in the case of the driver of a bus, coach or goods vehicle.

    12 points on your licence can get you banned! Points make prizes and 12 points gets you a bicycle!
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