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This past week a legal secretary I knew died in an automobile wreck when she crossed over the center line and struck an oncoming car. Apparently, she was texting when she veered over and could not have been paying attention to the job of safe driving. She left behind a 5 year old.

The National Safety Council reports that 80% of all wrecks are caused by inattention. Wrecks are the number cause of accidental death in the US. Outlawing texting has become the subject of laws in several states. On April 10, 2009, Gov. Barbour of Mississippi signed a bill effective July 1 banning young drivers from texting. The fine under this act can be as high as $500 and if an accident is involved the fine can be $1,000. Mississippi joins 9 other states banning novice drives from texting (Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and West Virginia) Why ban just young drivers? 10 states ban texting for all drivers (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, and Washington and the District of Columbia)

In researching this, I read articles and blogs opposing a ban on texting. The reasons seem inane to me. Like- “Why not ban drinking water-it is distracting, too” “Laws are made to be broken” If you follow that logic then we should do away with laws prohibiting running stops signs.

I have started a little nonscientific research project- counting the number of drivers I see talking on the cell phone. Right now, in city type driving the average is about 4 in 10. To combat cell phone distraction, some states and local governments have passed various laws to control cell phone usage. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 6 states (Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) specifically authorize a locality to ban cellphone use. Localities that have enacted restrictions on cellphone use include: Chicago, IL; Brookline, MA; Detroit, MI; Santa Fe, NM; Brooklyn, North Olmstead and Walton Hills, OH; Conshohocken, Lebanon and West Conshohocken, PA; and Waupaca County, WI. Interestingly, localities are prohibited from banning cellphone use in 8 states (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah). The use of all cellular phones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 17 states and the District of Columbia. ( I cannot imagine any reason other than an emergency for a school bus driver to be talking on the pohone while driving!) The use of all cellular phones by novice drivers is restricted in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The National Safety Council offers a Distracted Driver CD to help businesses inform and educate employees about the risks of using hand-held and hands-free communication devices while driving. It also assists organizations in creating and implementing a distracted driving policy as well as in gaining employee buy-in. It also includes tools to help reinforce the policy company-wide. On the CD is the NSC Motor Vehicle Safety Policy. This document, with its comprehensive section on distracted driving, is designed to serve as a model for any company. It includes a Statement of Acknowledgement, which employees must sign and return to their supervisors. A similar acknowledgement statement is part of the sample Generic Cell Phone Policy. Your business and family may find this CD and its tools helpful in protecting your co-workers and loved ones.

The bottom line to all this is that we all need to be more attentive when driving to protect ourselves and others.

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