Could Text Messaging Rest Stops Deter Distracted Drivers & Reduce Fatal Traffic Accidents?
While we have addressed the distracted driving epidemic in previous blog posts, we also have noted that the success of laws enacted by many states like Georgia that ban text messaging and limit cell phone use have had mixed results at best. The convenience of using a cell phone while driving, combined with difficulty in enforcing such laws and the relatively nominal nature of penalties for violations, has made it difficult to discourage distracted driving accidents involving cell phones. However, a new strategy being tested in New York may provide an alternative approach.
This new policy to discourage drivers from sending and reading text messages while operating a motor vehicle involves the creation of so-called “Texting Zones.” The state has announced a plan to erect 300 signs on roadways throughout the state that will indicate that the driver is in a legal texting zone. The signs will direct motorists to over 90 safe locations to pull off the road and stop so that the driver can engage in text messaging while the vehicle is parked.
While it is too early to determine whether drivers will voluntarily pull off into these areas before composing a text, this may be a more realistic expectation than counting on drivers to turn off their cell phone until they get to their destination. This approach may offer an interesting alternative to more aggressive enforcement and penalties aimed at motorists using a cell phone.
Although DUI laws have had a positive impact on DUI fatalities, these laws carry criminal penalties that include incarceration, loss of driving privileges and substantial fines. Further, the laws are less difficult to enforce because driver’s are obligated to submit to chemical testing of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and drivers may be convicted if there BAC level is over .08 percent. Because cell phone use is not restricted for all purposes, such as sending email, surfing the web or navigating with GPS, law enforcement officers face serious challenges in proving cell phone violations. The minimal risk of punishment combined with a relatively nominal fine as a penalty has made cell phone laws relatively ineffective.
While there have been suggestions that these deficiencies should be addressed by implementing a complete ban on all cell phone use by drivers, this approach only addresses the challenge associated with identifying violators. If violations continue to be classified as non-criminal offenses that are subject to a nominal fine, one is left to wonder whether the effectiveness of the distracted driving laws would increase.
The approach of creating cell phone zones where motorists can pull over and deal with calls and text messages may offer a strategy that encourages drivers to incur a relatively minor amount of inconvenience to avoid collisions. If the public and legislators are not prepared to treat cell phone-related distracted driving akin to DUI, this new approach may change the calculation of some drivers about the relative risk and reward of using a cell phone when a vehicle is in motion.
If you or someone close to you is injured or a loved one dies in a crash caused by a driver using a cell phone, call 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) to speak with a Georgia car accident attorney at Montlick and Associates. We are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.