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Texting Behind the Wheel: Thought-Crime, or Reckless Driving?


A recent spate of prohibitions against texting behind the wheel prohibit drivers from writing, reading, or sending messages from their phone or smart device while driving. These laws also usually prohibit the transmission or creation of emails, instant messages or any similar transmission while sitting behind the wheel. Some areas have zero tolerance policies and officers may cite drivers who are seen doing so much as only handling their phones while driving.

State & Local Texting Bans
State and local governments can enforce different policies on texting bans. While an increasing number of states are instituting the bans, not all state, and local policies are in agreement with one another. So it is possible to breeze through a given county while thumbing your tiny keyboard in full view of local police and then get ticketed by state troopers just a short way down the road.

Most places that have these bans categorize them under the term ‘primary enforcement.’ This means that enforcing texting bans are a priority for police, and they can pull you over even if they have no other reason to do so. You don’t have to be driving erratically, have a broken tail light or be suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to be pulled over for texting. This is the way it is in most areas that have texting bans on their books. So, if you are cited for driving while texting, there’s a good chance that it will come as a surprise.

Just like with the enforcement of these laws, punishments leveraged against those convicted of breaking a texting ban are spotty. They may include fines which will expand with subsequent convictions, and points against a driver’s license. Some states and counties  will even sentence texting drivers to jail time for the crime. In cases where texting is determined to have lead to a collision, authorities may cite texters with reckless driving.

Is texting More Dangerous Than Driving Drunk?
According to a recent study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, more than 3,000 people die each year due to texting-related accidents, and over 250,000 people are injured in these collisions. Despite the risks, the number of people shamelessly texting isn’t going down.

Forbes Business conducted a survey from which they conclude that 47% of Adults admit to texting while driving. According to them, 58% of high school seniors regularly text while driving. What’s worse, in spite of these numbers, few people are ever charged.

Even though these prohibitions are on the books in more than 40 states, and crackdowns are being put into action all over the country – very few people are actually paying fines. North Carolina defense attorney Ned Magnum told, “The more people who are aware of the danger, the safer our roadways will be.” He laments, “Proving a driver was texting while driving has been next to impossible for law enforcement agencies at all levels.”

The laws are full of gray areas where police simply can’t do any better than to say that a driver was looking at his or her phone. They have to get a warrant in order to search the phone of the accused person to get actual evidence of text messages being sent or received. Even in rare cases where police can get such a warrant, it’s hard to prove the driver was actively breaking the law unless a text was sent at the time the driver was seen using their phone behind the wheel.

It’s an area where law enforcement officials are often of two minds. While they’re anxious to crack down hard on these kinds of offenses, they get squeamish at the idea of seeking warrants for each and every person suspiciously handling a phone behind the wheel. Most people concerned agree that would be a huge imposition on both law enforcement as well as the public and that it would bog down the system significantly.

While refraining from texting while driving is certainly the safest route- driving courses are still an excellent way to learn the rules surrounding this touchy issue. Whether you’re a novice driver, need to enroll in a remedial driving course, or are only interested in lowering your insurance rates, traffic school, also known as a defensive driving course, can help you to hone your driving skills.