The rush to implement texting-while-driving bans in recent years was viewed as a rush to save lives.
But the truth is, such legislative actions do very little if the resulting laws aren’t actively enforced.
Unfortunately, as our Bangor car accident lawyers understand it, very few states appear to have made enforcement a priority.
USA Today reports that while 39 states (including Maine) plus the District of Columbia have enacted driver texting bans since Washington state became the first in 2007, not many law enforcement agencies seem to be taking it all that seriously.
For example, in Tennessee from the beginning of 2010 through April 25 of this year, state troopers reported issuing fewer than 950 texting-while-driving citations. That’s about 24 every month, or fewer than one a day – in the entire state.
In Louisiana, there have been fewer than 1,100 tickets issued since the law passed in mid-2008, meaning troopers have issued less than 18 a month there.
Several states, including Maine, don’t have up-to-date citation information because many agencies don’t even track it.
Maine passed its law in 2011. The law bars texting behind the wheel for all motorists, and it also prohibits cell phone use – both hands-free and handheld – for new drivers under the age of 18. It is also against the law to drive while distracted in this state.
These are primary enforcement measures, which means an officer has the ability to pull you over solely for committing a texting or cell-phone infraction.
But it’s unclear how often police here are doing so. Based on the information that is available in other states with similar laws, it doesn’t look promising. It’s quite troubling when you consider that for some teens especially, the prospect of a ticket is often scarier than the seemingly unreal possibility of death or serious injury.
A number of recent studies have found that drivers know texting while driving is dangerous, but many continue to do it anyway. One of those studies was the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index for 2012. In that analysis, researchers found that while more than 80 percent of drivers perceived texting and driving as a serious threat to personal safety, approximately 35 percent admitted having done so within the last 30 days.
A representative with the National Organizations for Youth Safety was quoted as saying that regular, consistent enforcement of the laws that are already in place are critical to ensuring they are effective in their intended purpose – which is to significantly drive down the number of distracted driving deaths and injuries.
Officers said in their defense that nabbing a texting driver is not always easy, as many people are working harder to conceal it by holding the phone down lower, so it’s not easily visible to police or other passing motorists. Many agencies said they are working on policies and tactics that will help them to become more effective in this regard.
The one bit of encouraging news we have from those states that have reported figures is that the number of citations appears to have climbed steadily with each year following the passage of the law.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.
FWIW, few drivers nabbed by texting bans, May 5, 2013, By Larry Copeland, USA Today
More Blog Entries:
Mark Distracted Driving Month With a Pledge To Quit Texting, April 10, 2013, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog