The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), which represents state highway safety agencies, said it does not doubt the dangers of texting and driving but does not support a ban because it would be difficult to enforce.

“Highway safety laws are only effective if they can be enforced, and if the public believes they will be ticketed for not complying. To date, that has not been the case with many cell-phone restrictions,” said Vernon Betkey, the highway safety association’s chairman.

The legislation would require states to ban texting or eMailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. It would be patterned after the way Congress required states to adopt a national drunken driving ban.

The transportation secretary would be required to issue guidelines within six months of the measure becoming law, and states then would have two years to approve the bans on texting and driving. States could recover highway funds by passing the legislation following the two-year period.

The bill would target the activity in a moving vehicle only and would not prohibit a driver from texting or eMailing in a stopped car.
Texting while driving isn’t just worrying parents and school officials, but students as well. Rocky Kaller, 17, who will be a senior this year at the University School at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., wants to put the brakes on texting behind the wheel.

“Someone needs to do something about it, and if someone doesn’t, it’s just going to keep getting worse,” Kaller said, adding that research shows that texting or talking while driving slows a driver’s reaction time by 35 percent–nearly three times more than driving under the influence of alcohol.

Worried about the number of accidents and near-misses he’d seen, Kaller began Project Stop Texting and Talking in Cars (STATIC) last year, bringing driving simulators to his school to show his fellow students and the public how texting impairs driving. During a five-minute ride, drivers encounter rain, road debris, and other dangerous driving situations, all while trying to operate a cell phone.

“It’s impossible to be a defensive driver and stay safe if you’re not paying attention to the road,” Kaller said. “This project will be worth it if just one life is saved.”

Kaller presented his project to the United Way and is trying to make STATIC an element of the Florida course required by teenage drivers before they are issued a permit.

*Along with the District of Columbia, here, according to GHSA, are the 14 states that now or soon will ban texting while driving: Alabama, Arizona (effective October 2009),California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisianna, Maryland (effective October 2009), Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina (effective December 2009), Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Links:

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Governors Highway Safety Association

Project STATIC

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the GIS and Geographic Inquiry resource center. “Geospatial” technologies–which include geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing (RS) tools–are keeping drivers on track. Now, similar technologies in schools let you chart a course to the future of learning. Go to: GIS and Geographic Inquiry