Efforts to Restrict or Ban Texting While Driving Vary Among States and Federal Government

Texting while driving, and whether authorities should ban or restrict the practice, remains a controversial subject. More than half of all U.S. states ban texting while driving by all drivers, and several more prohibit texting by novice drivers or school bus drivers. The federal government has weighed in on the issue with calls to ban texting while driving at the state level. Some evidence suggests that outright texting bans might result in more unsafe driving behaviors. Prevention of texting while driving, while an elusive goal, remains critical to improving highway safety.

Thirty-nine U.S. states, including Kansas, and the District of Columbia ban texting by all drivers on public roads. Five states, including Missouri, ban texting by “novice” drivers, defined in Missouri as drivers age twenty-one and younger. Three states specifically ban texting by school bus drivers while on duty. Numerous cities, counties, and other local governments have enacted their own texting bans.

On December 13, 2011, a press release by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nationwide ban on use of any portable electronic device, including cell phones, while driving. The press release followed a meeting of the NTSB to discuss a multi-vehicle accident in Gray Summit, Missouri in 2010 involving a pickup truck, a tractor trailer, and two school buses. The nineteen year-old driver of the pickup truck was allegedly sending or receiving text messages, in violation of Missouri law, when he struck the rear of the tractor trailer. A school bus then collided with the pickup truck, and a second school bus collided with it. Two people died in the collisions, and thirty-eight people were injured. The NTSB’s recommendation called on each state to enact its own ban on texting while driving, but some news outlets reported it as a call for federal legislation. This led to an irate response from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in mid-2012, clarifying that the NTSB only asked Congress to offer incentives to state legislatures to ban texting while driving.

Florida may be the site of the next debate over texting bans. Prior attempts to enact a texting ban in Florida met with opposition from House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Republican from Winter Park, who reportedly referenced distractions like eating or applying makeup while driving in expressing his hesitance to enact further prohibitions on drivers. Cannon left office in November 2012 due to term limits, and lawmakers have already introduced at least three texting ban bills for the upcoming 2013 session. Some bills would make texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning police could not stop a driver solely due to texting, while others would make it a primary offense.

A survey by AAA Auto Club South showed eighty-four percent support in Florida for a texting ban for all adults. A different AAA survey, however, cast some doubt on the effectiveness of texting bans. In September 2010, the AAA Auto Club of Southern California reported that the incidence of texting while driving doubled in the first nineteen months after California enacted its ban.

Auto accident attorney Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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