One of the most profound dangers currently facing drivers on the road is inattention facilitated by text messaging on mobile devices. Accidents that have been caused by texting drivers focusing on their phones instead of the road are creating a tragic national epidemic. A majority of American states have implemented new rules to reduce the alarming trend. Predominantly, these statutes focus on younger drivers; however, several states are now targeting all demographics, instead of only singling out inexperienced drivers. This is because texting while driving is universally distracting, regardless of a driver's personal abilities.
The most recent state to apply harsh repercussions for drivers that text is New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a spate of serious punishments for text messaging while operating a vehicle. These incipient restrictions apply to every facet of cell phone usage. Among the penalties included in the ban is a massive point deduction that will be taken from the license any texting drivers. The previous provisions removed three points from a driver's license for every infraction related to a cell phone; unfortunately, this did not curb the dangerous behavior enough, so it has been heightened to a five point removal. If combined with any other traffic violation, this could lead to an instantaneous revocation of one's motorist privileges.
Another deterrent measure that has been included in New York's new driving rules is a mandatory sixty day suspension for juveniles on their first offense. Probationary licenses receive similar treatment upon their first violation, but are subject to a six month period of not being allowed to drive. The severity of the reprimand reflects the urgency of the issue. The new punishments are equivalent to the legal ramifications that ensue from reckless driving charges or excessive speeding. This legislation is supported by the New York Police Department, and their spokesperson has declared that they intend to ticket every motorist they catch committing the infraction of texting.
Meanwhile, Florida is also attempting to deter drivers from using their phones by enforcing fresh legislation that bans the practice of using a phone when behind the wheel. Contentious politics have diluted the final bill to the point that it has become too ineffectual to combat the widespread hazardous behaviors. Senate Bill 52 struggled to muster votes, and it narrowly scrounged up legislative passage. The bill was signed by Governor Rick Scott, but critics have noted that its scope is too limited to have a dramatic impact. The main stipulation of the recent law is a $30 fine for all drivers caught texting. Repeat offenders would see the cost double.
Proponents of the initiative in Florida consider the final product to be disappointingly lackluster. The bill was originally supposed to expand the subpoena powers of law enforcement, which would have allowed police to acquire warrants that would allow them to determine if a texting driver was involved in an accident. This section of the bill was removed in a painstaking compromise that was the only route to guarantee its passage. Florida became the fortieth state in the union to adopt a legal protocol against texting while driving.
Now, advocates of texting bans are shifting their efforts into the private sector to ensure future driver safety. They are demanding the national installation of invasive cell phone applications that will ultimately monitor the speed at which the device is moving. High rates of travel would be detected, and then used to disable text message capabilities until being slowed down. The program is receiving developmental assistance from a conglomeration of programmers associated with AT&T.
One state that has yet to adopt a ban on sending texts while operating a motor vehicle is South Carolina; however, legislators in the state are hurriedly trying to remedy the absence of criminal repercussions. The fate of new rules hinges on the provability of a text-related infraction without violating privacy rights.
Similarly, concerns about privacy caused Governor Rick Perry of Texas to veto an overhaul of how drivers that text are handled. If not for the governor's interference, strict rules would have been adopted across the state. These punishments would have mirrored the regulations being applied in New York. Disgruntled lawmakers have locally rectified the vacuum, and cities across Texas have begun laying the groundwork for safer driving, thus circumventing executive authority.
It is estimated that texting drivers cause more vehicular fatalities than drunk driving. Because states lack federal oversight, they are taking proper action on their own.