December 11, 2009

US Teens Still Texting While Driving Despite State Bans

The majority of US teenagers are ignoring the numerous no texting while driving laws that are set into place in many states.

With a very real chance of all 50 U.S. states banning texting while driving, there is confirmation that teen drivers, the target of the legislature, will not heed the rules. There is even a huge study that found that with the importance of phones to their lives, teens frequently discard cell phone rules when associated with driving.

The amount of messages sent has increased tenfold in the last three years. Several police agencies, who wholeheartedly approve of this kind of legislation, admit that these rules are difficult to enforce.

The California Highway Patrol has ticketed 163,000 drivers since mid-2008. Still, they have issued only 1,400 texting citations since January, and this is with the police working hard to catch offenders.

"The handheld cell phone is relatively easy for us to spot, we can see when somebody has their phone up to their ear," CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader told Reuters. "But with the texting it's a little bit more of a challenge to catch them in the act, because we have to see it and if they are holding it down in their lap it's going to be harder for us to see."

In July, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer initiated a bill that would require states to ban the activity or risk the loss federal highway monies. Since then, Senator Jay Rockefeller has presented a different bill that would enforce the ban through state grants.

In October President Barack Obama signed an executive order forbidding federal employees from using their cell phones, including texting, while driving. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to increase that regulation to bus drivers and truckers.

However, a heavily cited study from the Institute for Highway Safety discovered that cell phone use in North Carolina actually increased after the state banned was enforced. A different research project by the Automobile Club of Southern California found that texting while driving actually declined after the state's law began.

"What I would say is that texting and cell phone devices have become such a component of life for teens and for young people that it's hard for them to differentiate between doing something normal and doing something wrong," said Steven Bloch, research associate for the Automobile Club, to Reuters.