No time to text

It may seem an exercise in futility to some, but the ongoing enforcement blitz to deter distracted drivers, especially those who text and drive, is worth the effort.
Like sobriety checkpoints, which seldom result in the arrest of drunken drivers, the six-state push to curb accident-causing bad behavior like texting is as much about awareness as it is about writing citations.
But issuing tickets would help get the message out.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol and state police in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are in a “high-visibility” enforcement effort that continues until 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
The focus is distracted driving. Nationally, 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 people were injured in 2012 in crashes involving a distracted driver.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity that has the potential to distract a driver and increases the risk of crashing. Distractions can be visual (taking eyes off of the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel) or cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving).
Texting while driving involves all three. Studies show that sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, long enough time for a car going 55 mph to travel the length of a football field.
The challenge for police is catching a driver in the act of texting. Most who do will rest their cellphones in their lap as they drive. It can be unnerving for another motorist to look over at a passing car and see the driver looking down, especially if they’re traveling 60 or 70 mph.
In Ohio, police can pull over any driver under 18 if they observe them with a cellphone. Those over 18 can be cited for texting if the driver is first stopped for another violation, such as speeding.
Officers have to zero in on the driver to spot a violation.
If they don’t observe a cellphone in use, or a driver looking down, they’ll be looking for anything that takes a driver’s eyes off of the road or even minor traffic violations like swerving or lane violations as grounds to pull them over. If they then determine the driver has been texting, reading, or sending an email, they can issue a citation.
They shouldn’t have to search too far. According to a 2011 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given moment an estimated 666,000 drivers were using cellphones or other electronic devices while driving. We have to believe that number is higher today.
Unfortunately, most texting-while-driving violations will still go undetected this week, even though police are looking for them.
Most people who text and drive won’t understand their behavior is just as dangerous as driving impaired until they’re involved in an accident. The lucky ones will be those who get a $150 ticket this week.



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