Texting while driving is one of the biggest distractions drivers can face. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distractions while driving were the cause of 3,328 deaths in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in car crashes due to a distracted driver.
In 2007, Washington became the first state to pass a texting ban. Since then, 42 other states have passed texting bans for all drivers. Of the seven states without an all-driver texting ban, four prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and three restrict school bus drivers from texting. Twelve states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
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Texting while driving is not only dangerous, but can also be costly. Penalties vary depending on where you live. In Alabama, a first-time offense will cost you $25, doubling for the next offense. California has one of the lowest fines with $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.
In Connecticut and Massachusetts, getting caught texting while driving will cost you $100 for the first infraction (increasing for each subsequent citation). In the Bay State, anyone under 18 must pay the fine, face a 60-day license suspension, and must attend an “attitude” class. In Minnesota, drivers face a fine of up to $300 (You can find information on your state’s texting while driving laws here).
Getting caught texting while driving might also have an impact on your automobile insurance. Insurance rates are based on a number of factors — including age, gender, location, and the moving violations you have received. So if you’ve been caught things like speeding, driving under the influence, or received a ticket for texting while driving, don’t be surprised if your car insurance rate goes up. Insurance companies might see you as a risky driver and raise your insurance premiums.
To raise awareness of the dangers associated with driving while texting, the NHTSA recently committed $8.5 million to a national advertising campaign and law enforcement crackdown combating distracted driving. The ads, which ran on TV, radio, and digital outlets during April 7-15, used the phrase: “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
“This campaign [put] distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seat belt use,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement — U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
Data from pilot distracted driving programs in California and Delaware show that effective advertising combined with increased visibility of police enforcement of driving distraction laws helped to reduce phone use. During the program, California police issued more than 10,700 tickets for violations involving drivers talking or texting on cell phones. Observed hand-held cell phone use subsequently dropped by approximately a third.
The NHTSA offers this advice to prevent distracted driving
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.
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