The Governor’s Highway Safety Association, headquartered in Washington, D.C. has crafted a synopsis of all state cell phone and text messaging laws, available on its Website at http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html. According to their site, texting while driving has been banned in approximately 35 states so far, with Georgia joining the roster in late 2010. Aimed at curbing instances of distracted driving and subsequent car accidents, violation of the ban in Georgia (and cell phone use by drivers under 18) carries a $150 fine.
Called the Caleb Sorohan Act after a young man who died in a car crash while texting, the law applies to text messages, instant messages (IM), email, and Internet data. It’s even enforceable at stoplights. That summer, Atlanta car accident attorneys kept an eye on the act, watching as it was approved by the House (131-19 vote) on April 27, signed by the governor on June 4 and, after a one-month delay, enforced beginning Aug. 1. Today, we continue to keep our eye on the act with one particular question in mind: Will the ban actually result in a marked decrease in car accidents?
It’s certainly true that text messaging while driving causes considerable problems for the average driver. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted in 2009 found that for truck drivers alone, text messaging made the risk of crash or near-crash event 23.2 times more likely than non-distracted driving. Similarly, a 2007 Clemson University simulated driving study discovered that text messaging and fiddling with iPods caused drivers to swerve from their lane 10% more often. Georgia State Patrol officers made their own observations about the phenomenon. Texting drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes, and drive more slowly and, if an accident results, drivers’ cell phone records may be subpoenaed.
In light of this, it’s easy to understand why, especially when first proposed, the texting ban made quite a splash, and incensed many citizens. The law’s subsequent approval and enforcement was no less sensational, resulting in a number of disgruntled drivers who insisted on flouting the rules. Now, it seems that car manufacturer Ford just may have found a way to satisfy drivers who feel compelled to stay plugged in at all times.
CNN reports that Ford is installing in its 2012 vehicles, and some of its older models, a feature called Sync can read text messages out loud. According to the article, “using a Bluetooth connection, it syncs with phones and alerts users when they receive text messages, reads them out loud and allows users to respond with a selection of standard pre-written messages without taking their hands off the wheel.”
CNN reporter Sarah Kessler makes sure to point out that while several phone applications have replicated this service (wouldn’t activating an app count as texting while driving?), Ford is first to foray into car installation. It could be just the solution needed.
Do you still feel you’re multitasker who can text and drive at the same time? Take this into consideration: Another study, conducted in 2010 by the University of Utah and surveying 200 drivers, found that just a measly 2.5% actually qualified as “supertaskers.” “Supertaskers” is a term coined to describe people who can effectively maneuver a vehicle while dialing or messaging on a cell phone. So when it comes to driving distracted – the odds are stacked against you, and this won’t bode well for you if involved in a car accident for which you are at fault.