By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Text messaging while driving is dangerous and now illegal
Placeholder Image
Text messaging is perhaps one of the more dangerous distractions for a motorist, and, accordingly, the California state legislature passed a law, effective Jan. 1, that bans all aspects of texting (on electronic wireless communication devices such as cell phones) while operating vehicles. This includes reading or writing messages. The intent of this law makes a lot of sense, but the enforcement of it will pose interesting challenges for law enforcement.

The enforcement of this new law will be a challenge because police officers will have difficulty discerning a texting violation based on observation alone. Unlike the cell phone law that, in effect, prohibits a user from hold the phone near his or her head (where it is plainly visible), the texting situation is quite different.

It seems to me that the most likely enforcement scenario for texting violators will occur as a result of a motorist being in a collision, where a subsequent investigation would reveal that, at or close to the time of collision, a text message was being prepared, sent or read. Cell phones usually display the time a text message was sent or received. Witnesses might also play a role in proving a case of illegal texting while driving.

Now that I have addressed the technical aspects of texting while driving, I should make it clear that law enforcement cannot rely on this new law alone to achieve increased roadway/traffic safety. It is simply too difficult to enforce using traditional enforcement means. This issue raises the larger question about how society will manage as technology makes ever-increasing impacts on our daily lives. We will see more issues like the texting one in the future as new technology and devices are introduced to consumers. So, will government try to eliminate all the unintended hazards associated with technology, or, will people simply evolve such that they can do even more multi-tasking and operate equipment with numerous, simultaneous distractions taking place? Consider today's young people who experience technology as nothing new; rather, it is a way of life. Adults in their forties and older are still making the technological transition, and for them, multi-tasking with electronic devices is a much greater challenge.

In any event, the industry will likely devise yet additional technologies allowing motorists to use voice recognition to perform texting tasks and many more inventions that we are not even dreaming of yet. Given this future scenario, I have to believe that law enforcement will have little to no practical effect on what are essentially societal issues, not matters of criminal behavior. Accordingly, the focus for solutions needs to be aimed at technology itself and individual responsibility -- an element our society sorely lacks. The police have a distinct and important role in keeping our roadways safe, but we are now starting to cross the line where activities that take place within the passenger area of a motor vehicle are substantially out of law enforcement's reach.

On a lighter note, in a very unusual move, the state has reversed an existing law prohibiting the attachment of GPS devices on windshields. Effective Jan. 1, 2009, GPS navigation devices can be attached to the windshield (usually by a suction mount) in the lower left or lower right side of the windshield - not in the middle or anywhere else. These devices must also not interfere with airbag units. Unlike the anti-texting law, the GPS law is an easier one for the police to enforce.

The best solution to the problems is self-imposed discipline out of concern for the safety of others and self preservation.