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Massachusetts Police Find Enforcing "Texting While Driving" Ban Difficult

January 15, 2013 07:00:00 am
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It was an elaborate crackdown, the first of its kind in West Bridgewater, Ma., says the Boston Globe: Plainclothes officers stationed along Route 106 spotted dozens of people engrossed in their cellphones while they drove. A quarter-mile ahead, uniformed officers pulled the drivers over, 51 in ­total, for texting while driving. While 37 people were given $100 citations or warnings, 14 others were let go. They were not texting, they ­explained; they were dialing a call or looking at directions, both still legal.

The operation, prompted in part by an ­increase in rear-end accidents in the town, highlights the prevalence of texting while driving, while illustrating why more jurisdictions are not cracking down. When officers are alone on patrol, police Lt. Victor Flaherty said, it’s nearly impossible for them to ascertain who should be pulled over for violating the law and who is using their phone ­legally, for instance to help guide them to their destination. To enforce the law effectively, he said, the state needs a ­total ban prohibiting all use of handheld cellphones while driving, requiring drivers to go “hands-free” by using a headset, speakerphone, or voice ­dialing. As it is, he said, “you can’t really tell the difference beween what they’re doing." Since the texting ban went into effect in September 2010, police departments around the state have issued increasing numbers of citations to drivers. In the first nine months of 2012, 1,278 citations were issued statewide. During the same time period in 2011, citations were issued to 860 drivers.

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Posted by Marina
Sunday, August 25, 2013 01:01

There is no text that can\‘t wait until I get to a place to stop and read it. There is nothing so imroptant that it can\’t wait until I can stop to type it. On long trips I have designated texters in the car with me which is a great thing about having teenagers.

Posted by Brent
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 01:43

I am a proponent of safe driving, but I am uncomfortable with police having practically unlimited discretion and power to stop and detain law abiding citizens. Although enacting legislation to make texting while driving illegal sounds good in theory, it is yet one more tentacle that government can use to reach deep into people’s personal space.
Texting while driving laws, perhaps legislated with good intention, by default, serve to give police sweeping power to stop and detain citizens. It once was that police could only stop a person for an obvious infraction such as running a stop sign or speeding, but the proposed texting law requires police to observe not only the vehicle, but also what a person is doing inside of the vehicle. Do we really want police, in an attempt to spot an infraction, look inside our vehicles to observe every little thing we do? Do we really want police to have the power to detain us for suspicion of texting or not wearing a seatbelt?
What if, for example, while you are driving, you look down to reach for a stick of gum, and an officer, observing you, thought you were texting and pulls you over to find that you cannot produce your proof of insurance and then gives you a citation for not having it? Or, you explain to the officer that you were reaching for gum and he doesn’t choose to believe you. This type of broad discretion seems overreaching and could give rise to snooping and prying without justification, not to mention the ability to stop and detain you for virtually anything, and with a low burden of proof.
Additionally, the accretive effect of adding one law on top of another fosters the attitude of “power entitlement” of government; let the government control you in one way, and it will come to expect to be able to control you in another, until these small, “harmless” laws collectively serve to control its subjects.
So if we don’t create laws to ban texting while driving, what should we do about it? That’s a good question. To start, public awareness should play a key role. Government could allocate more resources to public awareness campaigns. In addition, parents should inform and teach their children of the dangers of texting while driving. Subpoenas could be used in a civil trial to show whether someone caused and accident while texting and driving. There are a number of ways to tackle the problem. The question is not whether texting while driving is a problem, the question should be rather whether we wish to allow the government to penetrate one more layer into our lives.

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