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Texting ban

Published October 16. 2009 05:00PM

Rotary telephones powered by land lines are like something out of ancient times to the teenagers of today. When it comes to communicating, cell phones and text messages have become what the hand-held phone was to their parents ... and grandparents.

But in a mobile society where everyone seems to be on the move, this mode of communication can be very dangerous, especially when trying to manage a vehicle on our roads and highways. Texting requires focusing on a small screen and whether you're text messaging, tweeting, or whatever, being distracted for just a few seconds can have dire consequences.

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech transportation Institute concluded that truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. In crashes or near-crashes, texting took a driver's focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which is enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.

Most drivers realize the danger. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that 95 percent of drivers surveyed agreed that texting while driving is dangerous and 21 percent of them have done it recently.

Another study showed that up to a quarter of the expected 40,000 vehicle losses annually are due to distracted drivers' texting.

Pennsylvania is on the road to upgrading its laws regarding this crucial matter. The state General Assembly is considering several bills that would ban texting and driving. Pennsylvania will join 10 other states that have banned texting for all drivers if a new law is enacted.

President Obama recently signed an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving when they are using government cars or cell phones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business.

The state has followed up that initiative by setting an example of its own for drivers. Earlier this week, Auditor General Jack Wagner said he will ban all employees of the Department of the Auditor General from texting while driving. Effective immediately, it applies to all department employees operating state vehicles and those driving personal vehicles for work-related activities.

When lives are at stake, upgrading our laws on this subject should be a no-brainer for legislators.

By Jim Zbick

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