Despite a number of public awareness campaigns aimed at discouraging the practice, more Americans than ever are texting while driving. Federal officials say this type of distracted driving often results in tragedy.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently determined that the 19-year-old driver of a pickup truck blamed for causing a horrific accident that injured 38 people (many students on one of two school buses caught up in the pileup) in Gray Summit, Mo., last year had sent 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the accident. The texting driver, along with a 15-year-old passenger on one of the school buses, was killed in accident.
Researchers say teenagers in Tennessee are more likely to be using a cell phone while driving than their counterparts in 44 other states. That includes sending and receiving texts.
A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found two out of 10 drivers admit they have texted while driving. A majority of that number are teenagers and young adults.
Tennessee has a law expressly prohibiting drivers from text messaging while behind the wheel of a moving car. The law carries a $50 fine and an additional $10 for court costs. It is a non-moving offense, which means no points will be added to the offender’s driving record. As such, the law lacks teeth.
A stronger law against distracted driving — one that carries a penalty on an offender’s driving record — would help dissuade most Tennesseans from texting while driving.
We agree with Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, who says public awareness campaigns alone are not enough to change behavior.
“Good laws with strong enforcement are what is needed,” Adkins recently told The Associated Press. “Many drivers won’t stop texting until they fear getting a ticket.”