Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

July 21, 2013

Texting law ineffective

Indiana legislators passed a law in 2010, aimed at cutting back on the number of motorists texting while driving. It hasn’t worked.

Two years after that law went into effect, Kokomo police officers have written just five citations — three in all of 2012 and two this year.

The problem, they say, is the law is nearly impossible to enforce.

While the law forbids drivers from typing, transmitting or reading texts and emails while their vehicles are in motion, the law also states officers can’t confiscate phones or other mobile devices to determine whether a person was breaking the law.

That means police would have to subpoena phone records to issue a citation, they say, and the only time they’re likely to do that is in the event of a wreck.

A survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that about 2 out of 10 drivers say they’ve sent text messages or emails from the driver’s seat.

Thirty-four percent of 18- to 20-year-olds reported sending text messages while driving in 2011, as did 27 percent of adults.

Part of the problem is that many drivers don’t think the practice is dangerous, at least when they do it. Seventy-seven percent of young adults reported that sending text messages had little effect on their driving.

Some drivers in the survey admitted that wasn’t true, as they should. Twenty-three percent of all auto accidents in 2011 involved a cellphone.

Advocacy groups have launched campaigns trying to raise awareness of the danger, pointing out that at highway speeds a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in only an instant.

What will really get drivers’ attention, though, is the threat of a fine.

The Associated Press reported recently that law enforcement agencies in New York and Connecticut had brought about significant reductions in distracted driving simply by handing out more tickets.

That’s what needs to happen in Indiana. Lawmakers have acknowledged the danger by making texting while driving illegal. Now, they need to add provisions that will make the ban enforceable.

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