Treat texting drivers the same as DUIs

Published 10:05 am Friday, April 22, 2016

by Rick Jensen

Banning texting while driving is pretty easy for states to do. Creating a policy that actually reduces texting while driving seems especially difficult.

Only four states have decided not to ban all drivers from texting while driving. Those four only ban novice drivers and school bus drivers.

We’ve all seen idiots weaving across the road, looking down or over their steering wheel at their cellphone, as we wish a cop would show up.

Considering how many idiots you and I see texting behind the wheel, it’s hard to believe New York cops wrote 84,720 tickets for texting while driving 2015. That’s actually more than 2014.

Even little Delaware, with a state population of just under a million, is recently reported to be averaging over 12,000 citations per year since the law went into effect in 2011.

The Department of Transportation reports: “At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.”

So, what does that really mean to us driving, walking and riding bikes as potential collateral damage from a 25 year-old who mistakenly believes he’s going to be “a few minutes late” according to the text he thumbs just before crashing into you?

It means he’ll be distracted for about 5 seconds per text activity. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. At 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

Now imagine driving that football field blindfolded with the field loaded with cars and people.

That’s you texting and driving.

Maybe most people won’t think about it until they cause one of the nine deaths every day from distracted driving. Then, they’ll think about it every day for the rest of their lives.

The key is deterrence.

New York, as many states, exacts a penalty of $50 to $200 for the first offense. More offenses can raise the fines to $450.

More important, New York tacks 3 to 5 points against your license.

You start racking up points against your license and your insurance company joins in the enforcement.

Why stop there?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports driving while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

Callers to my radio program were not impressed with state legislators proposing a $100 fine for the first offense and waiting for the second offense to saddle offenders with points on their insurance.

Some suggested immediate suspension of the license for a week or more. Others suggested huge fines of two, three or five thousand dollars. Those fines would likely be found excessive, but the concept brings another thought to mind.

Why not create laws that emulate DUI laws with license suspensions, jail time and exorbitant lawyer’s fees?

Sure, some states are tougher than others on DUI, so let’s look at some of the toughest.

If you get caught driving drunk in Arizona, you’ll enjoy the country’s longest minimum jail term for first time offenders, a minimum of 10 days. Act like a jerk and you’ll be dining on the state even longer.