Press-Republican

June 12, 2013

Editorial: Texting while driving must end


Press-Republican

---- — When it comes to texting while driving, the challenge is all about withstanding temptation. And there is more reason than ever now to resist.

We have become such an information-oriented and immediate-satisfaction society that it is almost torture to hear that cellphone signal an incoming message and not be able to look at it right away and respond.

But the truth is that we used to get by just fine without knowing right that second who is in touch and what they have to say. In the days before cellphones, we waited until we were finished driving before getting in touch with friends and family. And life worked just fine.

If there is an urgent message, it is usually easy to pull over somewhere, park and use the phone. Yet, you still see people sneaking peeks at their phones, often while stopped at intersections or traffic lights. The heads bent staring at laps are a giveaway.

It’s not a humorous situation, though that image may imply so. People are dying because drivers are distracted by texts.

The state passed a law in 2011 that made using a handheld electronic device for texting while driving a primary traffic offense. That means police don’t need any other reason to pull you over; if you are texting, you can be stopped and ticketed.

At that time, the penalty for using a handheld device while driving was upped from two to three points on a driver’s license. The state said that from the time that change was made in 2011 to the next year, the number of tickets issued for texting while driving went up 234 percent.

Under legislation passed last Wednesday, the penalty for texting or talking on a phone while driving has risen from three points on a driver’s license to five, and fines can now reach $400.

Also, new drivers who are caught texting or using a cellphone while behind the wheel will face license suspensions.

The new rules, as explained in a news release from the State Senate, are: “Teens with a junior driver’s license who commit a distracted driving offense would have their license suspended for 60 days per violation.

“Teens and other newly licensed drivers who commit a distracted driving offense within the first six months of receiving their regular driver’s license would face a 60-day license suspension for their first offense. Those who commit subsequent offenses within six months of having their license restored would face a six-month suspension.

“In each instance, the suspensions would be in addition to any other applicable penalties, including five license penalty points and monetary fines.”

New York State Police have started a crackdown and will be using checkpoints and patrols all summer to catch texting drivers.

The tough new laws were created to curb a proven dangerous practice. Creating more trouble for these law-breaking drivers is warranted and will certainly save lives.