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Text Messaging to be banned in Maryland and Virginia

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Bills to ban text messaging while driving have been heard in both Virginia and Maryland and could pass in Virginia as early as tomorrow (Thursday), according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. The auto club is strongly supporting efforts in both states.


In Virginia, which ranks sixth in the nation in the volume of text messages, the House, normally the chamber that kills these bills, has already approved a texting-while-driving ban and it will be up for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee tomorrow, according to Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Director of Public and Government Affairs.


If the Virginia Senate passes House Bill 1876, sponsored by Delegate John Cosgrove, Virginia would likely become just the eighth state to outlaw the growing practice of text messaging while driving. Seven states now have laws on the books banning texting while driving.


As of February 12, 2009, 34 states have legislation pending to ban text messaging for all drivers, regardless of age.


In Maryland, House Bill 323 to prohibit texting while driving, sponsored by Delegate Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D, District 18), was heard last week in the House Environmental Matters Committee. It has not yet been voted on.


“We are much more optimistic about our chances of passage this year,” said Delegate Waldstreicher, who sponsored a similar bill last year. There are also other bills focusing on texting while driving pending in Maryland.


“We believe these measures to ban text messaging while driving in both Virginia and Maryland are critical to the safety of area motorists,” said Anderson, who noted DC already has such a ban.


“Text messaging on screens often no bigger than one inch square with tiny keys clearly demands detailed attention from the person creating or reading such a message,” Anderson explained. “It is simply not an activity which can be safely done while driving at any speed.”


“I believe that the practice of text messaging while driving is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible practices that one can perform while driving a vehicle on Virginia’s roads,” said Delegate Cosgrove, whose bill is now out of the House and before the Senate for a vote.


“People need to pay attention to their driving so they do not cause property damage, and more importantly, physical harm to themselves or another driver by causing an accident while driving and text messaging.”


The issue has been brought before lawmakers in both states in past years and was killed, the AAA spokesman noted. However, the ban seems to be gaining momentum this year both nationwide and locally, given its current consideration in 34 other states.


In Virginia, having already passed the House of Delegates with an 88 to 10 vote, it would seem to have real momentum. Delegate Jim Scott of Northern Virginia, who has also been intricately involved in the issue, also hopes to see the bill pass the Senate and become law.


“Text messaging and driving is a deadly stew, especially if the driver is under 20. HB 1876 should help reduce teen deaths on Virginia’s roads,” Delegate Scott stated.


Virginia ranks sixth in the nation in text message volume, and it has been reported that as many as one-third of Virginians admit to text messaging while driving. (Survey commissioned by Vlingo, May 2008)


Texting is only one of many factors that contribute to driver inattention. Some studies report that nearly 80 percent of crashes involve some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.


Younger adults are the heaviest users of text messaging with 32 percent admitting to sending text messages while driving and 43 percent admit to reading text messages while driving. (AAA Market Research, June of 2007) Teens are already at the greatest risk behind the wheel. Per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely to crash than older drivers (IIHS 2005).


Someone dies every 13 minutes on a road in America. Transportation safety advocates are working diligently to reduce that number and are convinced that texting while driving will, if unchecked, cause an increase in fatal crashes.


“A law to prohibit texting while driving a motor vehicle is a common sense law that should not require years of debate or study in either Maryland or Virginia. Distracted driving has become a major problem in our society, and we need laws which will stop these preventable deaths,” Anderson noted.


“For Virginia, which normally lags in approving these kinds of measures (no open container law, no primary seat belt law), to approve a texting ban first would be a huge milestone and send a strong message across the river,” the AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman concluded.

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That's an insane practice anyway. People are bad enough drivers as it stands.

If it rains, add a half hour (at least) to your trip and if it snows, well, it's been nice knowin' ya (or at least your car).

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