The Department of Transportation says that in 2008 more than 5,800 people, or 16 percent of all highway fatalities across the nation, died in a distracted-driving accident, and that 515,000 were injured. Perhaps it is this kind of information that has caused 23 states to debate bans on texting while driving — 19 already have laws in place.
Bills were introduced in both the House and the Senate last week that would ban texting while operating a motor vehicle in West Virginia. The House bill would impose a $25 fine, but the Senate bill has a little more teeth. Under that proposed bill, the fine would be $100 and offending drivers would have three points added to their license. Both bills make texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning an officer could not stop a driver for that particular offense. But if a driver is pulled over for some other moving violation, they could be cited for texting.
Accidents can happen in an instant. You might look down to change the station on your radio. You might be reaching for a ringing cell phone. You might be taking a sip of coffee on the commute to work. But taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds could be costly. And the currency could be lives.
And if those scenarios take the attention of a driver for a second or two, imagine how long of a distraction texting a message could be be. Some studies show that the effect of texting on the brain reduces the ability to safely operate a vehicle by 37 percent — as much as the legal limit of blood alcohol content. There’s no message on Earth so important that a driver should risk damage to property or lives to send it. Perhaps only the threat of a fine or points on a license would cut the frequency of distracted driving.
Leaders in Washington, D.C., want to send a message, too. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced federal legislation that bans e-mailing or texting while driving. If the proposed legislation passes, states would risk losing 25 percent of federal highway funds if they fail to pass or enforce the measure.
Though a similar texting bill was introduced during the 2009 regular session, state lawmakers failed to pass it into law. We hope this year, lawmakers get the message — texting while driving is deadly. And it shouldn’t take the threat of losing highway funds to make this law happen.
Driving while texting (DWT) is nearly as dangerous as driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a car accident involving a cell phone or text messaging, contact the Morgantown Car Accident Lawyers of Colombo Law at 800-860-1414.