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Sarasota News Leader May 10, 2013 OPINION After five years, the guardians of drivers' liberties in the Legislature consented to passing a bill that would slightly curtail the practice of texting while driving, but it was defanged by making texting while driving a secondary offense. This means a driver could not be stopped for that violation alone but could be ticketed for texting if pulled over for another offense (perhaps not wearing one's seat belt). However, unless the traffic officer could peer into the driver's window and actually see texting being carried out, the ticket would not stand up in court. Only by obtaining the offender's phone records could it be proven that texting was being committed. The bill was weakened further by prohibiting a search of phone records except in the event of an accident resulting in death or serious injury. If an officer accuses a driver of texting, all the driver really has to do is say he was playing solitaire or checking the weather on his cell phone. Under Senate Bill 52, both of these activities are legal to engage in while driving. It is communicating by use of written text that is forbidden. And since the officer has no way to obtain the phone records, absent blood on the pavement, there really is nothing that can be done to refute a driver's plea of innocence. Page 73 sages. They held the phones in their laps, so an officer passing by could not see they were texting. Guess how much of an impact the ban had on texting-related accidents? No, the problem is not to identify one aspect of hazardous behavior and believe that outlawing it will eliminate the total hazard. The real problem is the amount of attention demanded by mobile phones, whether someone is talking, texting, Tweeting, gaming or whatever. One cannot focus adequate attention on the complex task of navigating a piece of machinery weighing thousands of pounds and propelled by hundreds of horsepower when one is preoccupied with something occurring on a tiny handheld electronic box. The National Highway Transportation Safety Board, the National Safety Council, the American Automobile Association and other organizations identify the larger problem as "distracted driving." Texting is only one component of distracted driving, albeit the one that is getting the lion's share of media attention. Studies have shown that distracted driving is even more incapacitating than being drunk. Put an inebriated driver and a texting driver on a crowded highway, and the texting driver is more likely to cause an accident, too often Frankly, however, we are not disappointed in with tragic results. the result, because banning texting while driving is the proverbial band-aid on an arterial It is for this reason that we believe the only practical solution is to ban the use of handwound. held phones while driving. It really does not In North Carolina, texting was banned, so matter what the phone is being used for. Its drivers no longer balanced their phones on very presence compromises the abilities of the steering wheel while keying in their mes- the driver and makes accidents more likely.

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