Deadly Distraction: 14 States Now Ban Texting While Driving

By  Susan Nunziata — July 19, 2009

Texting/typing while driving ranked second in our latest Mobile Enterprise reader poll, which asked for your top pet peeves about inappropriate use of mobile devices.

The latest reminder of the dangers of cellphone use  behind the wheel is covered in this recent New York Times article.

The feature begins with the story of a fatal accident caused by a young driver who was distracted by his cellphone. But the danger isn't the exclusive domain of young and inexperienced drivers. Commuters, road warriors, field sales and service people, delivery folks and device junkies of all ages and occupations are doing it. In fact, the very pace of modern living appears to be driving this risky behavior and causing reluctance on the part of some lawmakers to address it, according to the New York Times.

The article highlights these sobering points:

  • Cellphone distractions cause an estimated 2,600 traffic fatalities per year and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.
  • In 2007, at any given time during daylight hours, 11.8 million drivers (11.8%) were using a cellphone.
  • Nearly half (45%) of the 1,506 cellphone owners surveyed by Nationwide Mutual Insurance in 2008 said they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver talking on a cellphone.
Rounding Up The State Regulations
No state completely bans all types of cell phone use for all drivers, according to a statement from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

However, in June 2009, the organization reported that the number of states banning texting while driving doubled this year over 2008. 

In just the first six months of 2009, seven new states passed broad texting while driving bans, bringing the total to 14, plus the District of Columbia. As of December 2008, only seven states plus D.C. had enacted similar legislation.

On June 19, 2009, North Carolina became No. 14 when Governor Bev Perdue signed a law banning all drivers from text messaging while driving.

Texting while driving is currently banned in:
  1. Alaska
  2. Arkansas (effective October 2009)
  3. California
  4. Colorado (effective December 2009)
  5. Connecticut
  6. District of Columbia
  7. Louisiana
  8. Maryland (effective October 2009)
  9. Minnesota
  10. New Jersey
  11. North Carolina (effective December 2009)
  12. Tennessee
  13. Utah
  14. Virginia
  15. Washington
With the exception of Washington State, these laws are all primary enforcement, which means that an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.

GHSA expects this number to continue to grow. The 2009 state legislative season has already seen more than 200 proposed distracted driving regulations.

According to GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha in a prepared statement, "There's a tremendous amount of interest in state legislatures and the highway safety community in the distracted driving issue. Regardless of the law, texting and driving should not mix. We need to restore some common sense to driving."

The organization reports that five states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from talking on handheld cell phones while driving.

On the flipside, according to GHSA, eight states have laws that prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting restrictions. In six other states, localities are allowed to ban cell phone use.

Some states, such as Utah and New Hampshire, treat cell phone use as a larger distracted driving issue. Utah considers speaking on a cellphone to be an offense only if a driver is also committing some other moving violation (other than speeding).

For a complete list of state rules and regulations concerning cellphone use while driving, click here

Related Articles
Pet Peeves & True Confessions: What Do You Do With Your Mobile Device?

How Many Drivers Admit To Texting Behind the Wheel?

L.A. Train Crash Raises Questions About Enterprise Text  Messaging Policies

See The Poll Results : What's Your Enterprise Policy About Texting While Driving ?


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