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Get tougher on those who text and drive

Friday, September 06, 2013 - Updated: 5:45 AM

A New Jersey state appeals court has ruled that a text sender could be held liable for a crash caused by her text's recipient -- but only if the person sending the text believes the driver will immediately respond, and jeopardize others on the road.

Meanwhile, Iowa's Department of Transportation has developed a smartphone application that turns off a phone's texting ability when it detects a speed in excess of 15 mph. The state agency's app will be called TXTL8R, short for "text later." (Several commercial apps that block texting or warn drivers of local laws are also available.)

When will drivers figure out on their own that they can save lives -- maybe even their own -- by putting down the device, hooking their thumbs to the wheel, and keeping their eyes on the road?

New York is among the 41 states (along with the District of Columbia) to ban text messaging for all drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In New York, distracted driving is a primary offense, meaning police can pull over drivers for that act alone. And as of July 1, drivers caught texting have faced tougher penalties -- including more costly points on their license and, for young drivers, longer license suspensions.

There's also been a plethora of public awareness campaigns that focus on the dangers of distracted driving, including texting. Just about everyone knows the dangers. According to a recent AT&T survey, 98 percent of respondents said they were aware texting and driving wasn't safe. The statistics show they're right. Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to get into an accident than other drivers, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,300 people died in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2011.

While most think of teens texting behind the wheel, 49 percent of adults admitted they have texted behind the wheel in the AT&T survey; 43 percent of teens acknowledged they have engaged in texting while driving.

It makes sense to protect everyone on the road by refraining from texting someone you know is driving. It makes even more sense for drivers to refrain from reading and responding. If personal responsibility isn't enough of a motivator, now there's tougher penalties for drivers and the threat of civil liabilities for texters.

-- The Rockland Journal News

     

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