Growing number of states address “DWT” issue

The dangers of drinking and driving and of excessive speed have been widely publicized, but the latest and growing threat to safety on the roadways is “driving while texting.” According to DPS Trooper Samuel Laird, the passenger in a Sunday night crash, that has since turned fatal, said he and the driver were texting as they traveled down a dark and narrow road in unincorporated East Montgomery County near Splendora.

The passenger told the trooper the last thing he recalled was looking up from texting, realizing the truck was about to go into a ditch and calling out to the driver, who he said was also texting.

The next thing he recalled, according to his statement, he was on the ground outside of the truck which was upside down with major damage and his friend critically injured and still inside.

Activist groups have successfully brought the issue to the attention of legislators in many states. By the end of 2009, texting while driving will be illegal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

In 21 states plus the District of Columbia, “novice drivers” are banned from all cell phone use. The term “novice” is defined by each state independently. In some cases, it means anyone under 18 and in others, it is determined by the length of time driving, which varies from a year to a year-and-a-half. New Jersey has the strictest cell phone law. Anyone under 21 is banned from all cell phone use.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia have banned all hand held cell phone use while driving. In six states, local governing bodies have the power to set cell phone restrictions on drivers within their jurisdictions.

In Texas, the only restrictions are for drivers under age 17 with passengers and at any age during their fist month driving. In both cases, any cell phone use is prohibited.

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