Drivers traveling through a construction zone in Marietta, Georgia, were minding their own business. Most paid little or no attention to the construction crew working along the route. That is, until they were pulled over. It turns out those construction workers weren’t part of a road crew at all. They were actually undercover police officers getting an up close and personal view of the cars — searching for distracted drivers.
State police in Chattanooga, Tennessee, got a good view of texting drivers from their perch high atop a tractor-trailer. In Bridgewater, Massachusetts, officers have found success dressed as themselves — but riding a bike rather than in a patrol car. As they pull up next to cars stopped for a traffic light, text offenders receive an immediate $105 ticket.
Meanwhile, drivers may have ignored the homeless man hanging around one busy street corner in Bethesda, Maryland, but he didn’t ignore them. From his handy lookout he was able to spot distracted drivers and radio ahead to other officers who pulled the drivers over a few blocks down the road.
When limited texting features appeared on Nokia phones in 1993 (with a full keyboard coming out in 1997), who knew how the concept would explode in future years? Not only has texting become the norm for sending messages, it’s become mainstream as a way to carry on entire conversations. But when combined with driving, well, the result can be dangerous — to both the texters and those sharing the road with them.
Did you know that it takes at least 5 seconds to read or write a text? That’s 5 seconds or more that your attention is diverted from the task at hand — driving. To put it in perspective, 5 seconds at 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field, all with your eyes off the road. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drivers who text while in motion are 23 times more apt to crash their vehicles. And for those of you who would consider it the norm to call a cab or take an Uber after a few drinks, consider this: texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. In fact, it’s the cause of one quarter of all auto accidents.
If that’s not enough to make you think twice before texting while driving, how about the fine? Those typically range from $20 to $250. And that’s not all; roughly thirty percent of states with texting laws also assess points to your driver’s license. And keep in mind that a ticket for texting just might affect your auto insurance rates.
Thus it’s no surprise that a whopping 46 states have a texting ban in place for drivers of all ages. And don’t try to get around the system by pulling out your phone at the light. While distracted driving laws vary by state, many of them consider texting at a light to be the same as texting while driving. In fact, in Georgia, simply looking at your phone while driving counts as a ticketable offense. That includes texting, reading a text, tweeting, reading emails, checking a website and even looking at your GPS. And “driving” includes sitting still at a red light.
How about talking on your phone? Well, depending on where you live, that could be a problem too. As of September 2016, there are 14 states (plus Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C.) that currently have laws banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. In each of these cases. texting is considered a “primary” violation, meaning drivers can be pulled over for distracted driving alone. In addition, 38 states recognize that new drivers need a little more focus and prohibit their use of cell phones while behind the wheel. Talking or using your GPS feature through hand-free Bluetooth, however, is generally acceptable.
While police officers are getting tricky to crack down on texting, drivers have become a little sneaky themselves. The problem — or good news, depending on how you look at it — is that law enforcement may be on to them. Officers are on the lookout for drivers holding something in their hands, looking down repeatedly or for a noticeable period of time, drivers moving unusually slowly, and cars that weave or drift over their lane lines.
But don’t stop texting to avoid a ticket. Stop texting to prevent an accident. Nothing you have to say can be more important than that.