Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Driving to Distraction

Today’s high school and college students text constantly. I should know, I’m one of them. Texting has become the favored form of communication for those in class, eating dinner, or hanging out with friends. However, if a new law passes in Missouri, young drivers will find texting from the drivers seat not just dangerous but also expensive.

The Missouri Legislature passed a bill that makes it illegal for anyone 21 or younger from text messaging while driving.

The bill seems like a good idea. The road should be the driver’s number one concern. However, I have to wonder, why the age limit on the ban? Is an older driver somehow better at texting? Sen. Ryan McKenna doesn’t seem to think so. As the bill’s sponsor, he originally wanted it to cover those over 21 as well.

Not including those over 21 isn’t the law's only loophole. Officers may not be able to tell the difference between drivers dialing a phone and completing a text message. The ban may outlaw texting, but phones today also have Internet access, which creates an entirely new level of driving distraction. Imagine music, weather, sports updates, and games all a button push away. These phone capabilities are not included in the ban, leaving drivers able to use them freely. Should an officer pull over an individual texting or scrolling through their favorite website, how will the officer be able to tell what exactly they were doing with their phone?

Don’t get me wrong, the ban has the best of intentions. Keeping any segment from texting while driving will reduce the number of accidents. I simply believe the ban’s specificity is what keeps it from being functional. For example, some states have handheld cell phones banned from anyone driving. Not much room for excuses there. Until the ban is defined a little more thoroughly we can continue to expect accidents simply because the driver is too busy texting to make good driving decisions.

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