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Banning Texting, Cell Phone Use While Driving the Focus of New National Organization

Virginia and North Carolina are among the 19 states that prohibit drivers from using electronic devices to send text messages while in motion. If a newly formed national advocacy group called FocusDriven succeeds in its mission, every state will also enact bans on texting while driving.

Any person on the highways of Norfolk, Virginia Beach or any other city cannot stop at a stoplight without seeing almost every other driver surrounding them talking or texting on a cell phone. With nearly every driver owning a cell phone and using it to do business or just talk to family or friends, the temptation to text and e-mail while driving is nearly irresistible, especially to teen drivers.

FocusDriven, which has the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has the primary goal of limiting distractions for drivers. At the top of the list of those distractions are hand-held cell phones, especially phones drivers use to send and receive text messages. Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood went even further when discussing the launch of FocusDriven, saying, "I'm on a rampage about distracted driving. I'm not going to give up on it. I'm going to do everything I can to try to make sure people drive safely--without cell phones, without Bluetooth, without Blackberries."

LaHood's agency hosted a Distracted Driving Summit in September 2009, and President Barack Obama issued an executive order last October that prohibits individuals from texting while driving government vehicles. That is a good start, but it's only a start.

Studies have shown that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk or drugged driving. Real-world examples of how hazardous it is to use cell phones, PDAs or laptops from behind the wheel are also depressingly numerous. A California (CA) woman fatally crashed while texting just before New Year's 2010. In 2007, a tractor trailer driver reaching for his cell phone slammed into several cars on I-64 outside of St. Louis, killing three people and injuring many others. In all, each day in the United States, as many 8,000 traffic accidents involve a driver using an electronic communication device.

State and federal officials must act to discourage distracted driving, and particularly texting while driving. More importantly, drivers need to turn off and put away their cell phones, PDAs and other electronic devices every time they get on the road.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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