Opinion

Driving while texting

You can text message or you can drive, but you absolutely shouldn't be doing both at the same time. In fact, it should be against the law.

Texting -- using the letters on a cell phone or Blackberry to send a written message to someone -- is a growing trend among the general population and an established everyday custom for many, especially teens and young adults who have grown up with the technology. It's an easy and silent way to send a quick message.

For those who are proficient at it, texting is almost second nature. They barely have to glance at the letters to write and send a message.

Text messaging is so prevalent that last year, 158 billion messages -- or 300,000 a minute -- were sent in the United States. And that's up 95 percent from 2005.

The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from those figures is that some of those messages are being sent by people while they are driving. While 90 percent of American adults think texting and driving should be outlawed, according to a Harris poll, 57 percent sheepishly admit to sending a text while driving.

But if 90 percent of adults think DWT (driving while texting) should be illegal, what is stopping state legislatures nationwide from making it so? Some states have prohibited or limited the use of cell phones while driving; driving while texting strikes us as even more dangerous.

Cell phone use now ranks as the most common distraction for drivers. Dialing the phone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, triples the risk of an accident.

And texting essentially is nothing but dialing.

Outlawing DWT would be problematic. For one thing, the law would be difficult to enforce as a primary offense. Drivers can send text messages with one hand out of easy view of a police officer or state trooper. Even if officers suspect a driver of text messaging, proving it at the scene would be difficult.

But the law might prove more useful in court cases involving vehicle accidents. Prosecutors could subpoena phone records to determine if a driver was texting at the time an accident occurred, which could help determine liability in the case.

Perhaps, simply by making driving while texting illegal, drivers might be discouraged from doing it. That has been one of the results in states that enact mandatory seat belt laws. Even though the punishment may be incidental, more people buckle up because it is the law.

If DWT were against the law, maybe some of the 57 percent who think it is wrong but do it anyway will cut it out.

IN SUMMARY

Text messaging whild driving is dangerous and should be against the law.

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