Will Kentucky pass laws prohibiting texting while driving?

10/25/2009

Will Kentucky pass laws prohibiting texting while driving?  Well, there is a bill pending in the Kentucky state legislature that could do exactly that in 2010.

Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the 2010 regular session that would make “texting” while at the wheel a no-no.  It also would prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using any cell phone. Violators would face $50 fines.

The Kentucky State Police’s annual report for traffic collision stated there were a total of 962 reported accidents caused by cell phones in 2008. The true number is actually much higher, but a lot of people will not admit to using their phone at the time of an accident.

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institution concluded that a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. But even if the bill is passed, it could be difficult for police to enforce.

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, some statistics show that nearly 6,000 people were killed and more than half a million were injured on America's roads last year in crashes linked to texting or talking while driving. As a result, more than 25 states have created some type of law restricting drivers from texting while operating their vehicles and many states have already proposed similar legislation, though it has not yet been passed.

Nevertheless it seems some states have been sending mixed messages, almost literally, when it comes to texting while driving according to a USA Today article from mid September. In the piece, Associated Press writer Andrew Demillo explains the possible contradiction resulting from certain states, including those with cell phone laws, sending traffic updates to drivers via text message or Twitter updates. The states argue that these updates are not cause for concern because they stress to drivers to check their messages and updates prior to leaving for their destination. However there are times when these “tweets” turn into an exchange of conversation between motorists and state officials, as demonstrated in Demillo’s article one user posted, “any idea what's going on westbound on 520? It's worse than rush hour..," and within a few minutes, officials responded: "Yes! There is a disabled vehicle just east of Lk Wash Blvd blocking right lane." The danger arises when these types of exchanges are being conducted while moving.

Amidst the talk of texting bans, one large group of motorists was at first absent from the conversation, truckers. In a report by Montana’s News Station, High Plains Owner and Operator Doug Landru was quoted in response to distracted drivers saying, “People don't realize they're sitting in a 4,000 pound weapon.” On the same token, distracted truck drivers are often behind the wheel of roughly 80,000 pounds and in most cases doing so while operating cell phones, radios and even laptops. But to that, Landru commented that to him a cell phone and internet are vital and Oregon trucker Edwin Parrish agreed saying, “Being able to check my text messages or my email messages, I'm able to know when I'm supposed to be some place.”

Fox 4 out of Kansas City, MO reported that several trucking companies are concerned about a texting ban because they use on board computer systems for communication. Nevertheless, a study at Virginia Tech University found that truckers driving while using the computers were 10 times more likely to have an accident. Often, the devices are disabled for use while driving, but not all are turned off and there is no way to tell whether or not they are being used while operating the vehicle. According to LaHood, the Obama administration will ban texting by truck drivers and restrict the use of other in-cab technologies as part of its effort to eliminate distracted driving.

Texting while driving has become such an issue in Kentucky that a statewide media campaign has been launched including a public service announcement by a Louisville girl involved in a wreck due to texting.

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