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State’s New Texting-While-Driving Ban ‘Not Serious’

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So here’s today’s “what are they thinking?” moment: Police can pull you over if they see you talking on your cell phone. But, under a proposed law heading for the Governor’s desk, if a cop sees you texting on your cell phone, he can’t turn on the red lights and siren.

The anti-texting law approved this week by the state Legislature bans texting while driving, but makes it “secondary” law. That means you can only be ticketed for texting if you’re pulled over for something else, or it turns up as part of an investigation into an accident.

Research out this week from Virginia Tech finds that an accident is 23 times more likely to happen if the driver is sending a text message than if he’s got his eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.

Judith Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the Associated Press, “It minimizes the deterrent value of the law. It’s like saying, ‘We’re not serious about this.’”

AAA found that drivers fear text-messaging drivers as much as they fear drunken drivers these days.

Gov. Paterson is expected to sign the measure into law, because it’s one part of a larger package of bills aimed at strengthening driving laws and young drivers.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is one of several Senators who this week revealed plans to introduce a bill that would force states to ban texting while driving or lose federal highway funds.

“Studies have shown over and over that texting while driving is dangerous and it’s time to take action to prevent the tragic accidents that result from this activity,” Schumer said in a news release. “We have seen too many lives ruined due to drivers recklessly using their cell phones. With this new legislation, drivers will finally be held responsible for dangerous behavior that puts the public at risk.”

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