Debate Forum Topic 10/06/10

Debate Forum Topic 10/06/10

To Text Or Not To Text: Should There Be Legislation?

There is now a national movement to ban texting while operating a motor vehicle. While some states have already passed measures making it a crime to text while driving, not all states have followed suit. At present, 14 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have laws barring texting while driving: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.  Other states are at various stages of considering the issue. There are also some cities that have passed their own bans on texting while driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “distracted- driving,” where the driver’s attention is focused on an activity other than the road ahead is a growing problem. In fact, the proportion of fatalities linked to distracted drivers rose from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. According to the report, there were 33,808 people killed in car crashes in the U.S last year. Of those killed, distracted-driving, including the use of a cell phone behind the wheel, resulted in 5,474 deaths in the U.S., which is down slightly from the 5,838 recorded in 2008.  Of those distracted drivers killed, 995 deaths, or about 18 percent, involved the use of a cell phone. An unknown percentage of those using a cell phone were texting.  Distracted-driving also resulted in 448,000 injuries – 24,000 of which involved cell phones, or about 20 percent.

On the federal level there is legislation pending which would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle, according to a news release from senators. If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation would set the minimum standards for compliance. States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill’s passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds. However the bill allows for the noncompliant states to recuperate that money once they meet the text-banning standards.

Critics of the legislation point out that cell phone use, including texting while driving, is responsible for only 20 percent of the accidents caused by distracted-driving. The other 80 percent involve some of the following: talking to other passengers while driving; changing the radio station; changing a CD; eating; lighting a cigarette and smoking; yelling at kids; putting on makeup; and a host of other distractions. According to those opposed to more traffic laws, the proposed federal legislation will not end the problem of distracted drivers causing accidents and takes us one more step along the way to the “Nanny-state.”

Question of the Week

In order to reduce accidents caused by distracted–driving, should there be national legislation that would require states to enact a ban on texting while driving a motor vehicle or face the loss of their federal highway funds?

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