Texts and Wrecks

11.10.09 | Dr. Stephen Coleman | Comments[2]

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Please do not use your cell phone to text while driving. This represents irresponsible, dangerous, and unChristianlike behavior that could kill or injure you, your passengers, and other drivers. Being distracted while driving is a formula for mayhem and death on the highways.

That’s why it is so important to have tough laws -- laws with teeth -- to cut down on the distraction that is texting while driving. New York and especially Pennsylvania have a long way to go in this regard. For example, on November 1st a new law went into effect in New York State that outlawed texting while driving.

Unfortunately, the police cannot cite someone for texting while driving unless the driver is initially stopped for something else like speeding or going though a stop sign. In other words, texting while driving is not a primary offense in New York. Furthermore, if stopped for something else and then ticketed and convicted for texting behind the wheel, the maximum fine is a measly $150.

I submit that the ban on texting while driving in New York is a paper tiger -- a joke of a law that invites people to break the law. New York needs to make texting while driving a primary offense, with steep fines, and with major auto insurance consequences.

If New York has a long way to go in the driving while texting department, Pennsylvania’s situation is much worse. It’s hard to believe that there is no statewide ban on texting while driving in the Keystone State.

That’s right. There is no ban on texting while driving in the Keystone State. This is a situation which is dangerous and unacceptable. What a disgrace!

On top of this, there is not even a statewide ban in Pennsylvania on the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Again, what a disgrace! A major responsibility of government is to protect the lives and safety of citizens. The Empire and Keystone States are failing in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for writing in and I always appreciate your comments. Comment below, or send me an email.

cc-wetm - tv- Dr. Coleman also airs commentaries and a public affairs program on WETM 18 Elmira. For more information on these programs, go to wetmtv.com.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 11.10.09 J Burdick commented

HI There,
I am writing to comment on today's commentary regarding the laws in PA and NY regarding cell phone use and texting while driving. I agree that these activities are dangerous and should never be done while driving, but I do not agree with the commentator's conclusions regarding the need of new laws on these activities. I did a brief search on-line about things people do while driving and came up with the following - all things that have been observed and even photographed.

"Working on Laptops, reading the paper, eating cereal, Women putting on make up. A woman drying her hair by sticking her head out the car window and brushing it at the same time. Eating, adjusting the radio, adjusting the climate control, and smoking. A driver doing her hair (battery op curling iron?) going down I-235 @60 mph. Changing their clothes, reading a map, reading a book, reading work papers, reading your mail, texting, shaving, sleeping, correcting fighting children, watching TV or DVD's, programming GPS units.
This little factoid might drive you to quit driving: 36 percent of people admit to changing clothes while behind the wheel.

That's according to a recent survey done by Yahoo! Autos, but it gets worse...

-- 20 percent of folks say they like to read the newspaper while driving, while 8 percent admit to shaving.

-- More dangerous still, 2 percent of folks say they actually check their e-mail while driving."

So there are many other things beside cell phones and texting that cause driver distraction and result in accidents. There is no way the legislatures of every state will keep up with all of the new technology that is available to distract people behind the wheel. You can't write a law for every conceivable wrong activity. There needs to be a general law in every state that penalizes people for engaging in distracting behavior or activities that divert their attention from the road while driving. When such activities result in driving poorly or in an accident, then stiff penalties should be applied. This lets people know that distractive behavior will not be tolerated and will be punished if observed by law enforcement, and that causing an accident by such activity will receive a greater penalty. There should be insurance penalties and other legal penalties including felony driving while engaging in distractive behavior (just like felony DWI). Only then will people clean up their act. Any other approach is piecemeal and will not solve the overall problem of driver distraction because people do not take seriously the danger of multitasking behind the wheel. If insurance companies start instituting financial penalties for such behavior, people will think twice about doing an activity. Stiff legal financial penalties can also curb such behavior.

on 11.11.09 J Mark Robinson commented

Dr. Coleman may be correct that using a cell phone while driving is not a wise decision however to suggest that it is "unChristian" really crosses the line. What is Christian and what is not? In my mind, doing the "Christian" thing is whatever Christians are encouraged to do as found in God's Word. To take a modern technology, mix in the culture's use of same and then apply the label, "Christian" or "unChristian" really is a stretch!

The whole issue of cell phones and driving is way out of proportion. The key is that ANY driver should pay attention to their driving and try to minimize distraction. Unfortunately, eliminating distraction is an impossibility. For instance, who is not distracted when they reach over to tune the radio, CD player, GPS or even roll down their window? What about ad signs and even street signs? Do they not distract? When you approach a traffic light and your vehicle is still moving, how many don't look at the traffic lights that are signalling the traffic directed to the cross street? Is this not a distraction? MY favourite example: How many young men are distracted by very attractive young ladies walking down the street or vis versa? IF we legislate removal of distractions, then all attractive men and women should be banned from driving or walking on public streets where there is automobile traffic.

There is already legislation on the books that permit a peace officer to lay charges against a driver that does something or fails to do something that can compromise the safety of other property and persons. A person that is found to have been distracted by ANYTHING and fails to obey a rule can be charged with any number of things.

It's time that the legislators stop their knee jerk reactions when they hear a few squeeky wheels without grease. Let's face it, these new laws are a waste of time and money and the proof is that laws to prevent other things rarely work. Think not? Go ahead and convince me that the laws with respect to impaired driving has put a stop to all drivers that are drunk, high or sleeping and then I'll let the lawmakers pass as many laws as they like.