Texting has taken the country by storm, and many have become addicted to it. Sometimes its the only way I can communicate with by two 20+ year old children. For years many battled for banning cell phone use while driving without a hands free device, and have reached limited success. But with texting being even more distracting, drivers are at a huge risk – whether they are the ones texting or not. Car and Driver Magazine even found that texting while driving actually impaired reaction time worse than drunk driving (caveat: don’t drink and drive).
But it’s not just passenger vehicle drivers who have been caught in the act. It’s also our nation’s truck drivers who find themselves distracted by typing messages on their phones. For tractor trailer truck drivers driving 80,000LB vehicles, every second can be life or death.
Virginia Tech just finished an extensive study on the effect of texting while driving commercial trucks. In the study, researchers found that drivers were distracted for 4.6 out of the 6 seconds leading up to the crash or near miss. The study concluded that texting truck drivers were 23 times more likely to be in a crash or a near miss than their non-texting counterparts. That’s simply unacceptable.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) has supported a ban on texting while driving, a bill which was introduced in the U.S. Senate a few days ago. The ban would require all states to ban texting while driving; else face a huge drop in highway funding.
Our state, though, hasn’t waited for the federal government to step in. Tennessee’s anti-texting legislation went into effect on July 1. Now if an officer spots a driver texting, he or she can cite the driver for it. It’s only a $50 fine, it’s a non-moving violation, and enforcement issues exist – so its effectiveness remains to be seen.
In certain cases accident victim attorneys may subpoena phone records to prove a driver at fault was texting while driving. In such a case, it’s clear that driver was acting negligent and not paying attention to the road. But other states should follow Tennessee’s lead in this matter – because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.