Jack Simpson: Laws aren't enough to stop people from texting and driving



While driving down Ga. Highway 20 the other day, we noticed as we stopped at each traffic light, a young lady in the adjacent car was texting. She kept this practice up all along the route. Luckily, she managed to avoid an accident.

Judging from her proficiency with a cellphone, she might have been an expert texter! Who knows? Did she not know texting while driving or even sitting at a traffic light is illegal? Most states, and even some local governments, ban use of cellphones while driving on public roads. Some jurisdictions only ban novice drivers for texting. Some localities make it illegal to text in school zones or if operating a school bus. Some police can only cite for texting if another traffic law has been violated as well.

In some jurisdictions if you text and cause an accident, you will be cited for reckless driving. I believe it was in 2010 that Georgia passed a law forbidding texting while driving. Statistics reflected that too many accidents were being caused because drivers were impaired while texting. Some drivers were so addicted to texting behind the wheel that they were willing to die to continue the practice.

Georgia joined at least 38 other states where officials concluded the crash risk rises when drivers are distracted while texting. So if people are aware of the risk, why do they still insist on texting while driving? What is so important that it cannot wait?

Maybe texters know the use of cellphones for texting is hard to detect and hard to prosecute. It would be safer to pull off the road while texting, but many do not choose to do this. Texting is on the rise and prosecutions are limited. It may be easier for police to prosecute murderers, rapists, or robbers than to convict a texter.

And, even if convicted, a texter may only receive a $150 fine and have a point added to his or her driving record. We must face facts. There are too many texters on the road and thousands of accidents are being caused as a result. A texting driver who takes his eyes off the road for only as little as five seconds is likely to have an accident.

Automakers are aware of the texting problem and are beginning to build solutions into new vehicles. Soon drivers will be able to select phone numbers, answer phones and talk without having to remove their hands from the wheel or divert their eyes off the road.

This development may help the lady who was texting on Ga. 20. Such new innovations may keep her from becoming a statistic. Her luck may run out if she keeps driving and texting.

We wish her well and encourage her, and all who text and drive, to obey the law -- don't text and drive. Contribute to highway safety. The life you save may be your own!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.