Can We Get Stiffer Penalties for Texting and Driving?

KANSAS CITY, MO —  We are on the road and so the weekly Report from Louisiana is this week, Report from Somewhere in the Midwest.   It does one good to get out of customary surroundings from time to time and see things.

My spouse does the driving and I peer out the windows at old buildings, cows, dried up little towns, and all too often construction cones.  This is always more interesting if you’re off the interstate but ours is a quick trip home to see family before a calendar full of obligations back home kick in in a couple of weeks, so we are travelling crowded interstate this trip.

Can we just talk for a moment about how many people are texting and driving 75 mph through the heartland?  As a passenger, I have the luxury of being able to look at other drivers, which I especially make a point to do if they are driving unusually slow in a 75 mph zone or weaving all over the lane.  More often than not, there’s a cell phone involved.

The statistics are frightening.  According to the National Safety Council, in 2013 a minimum of 341,000 crashes involved texting and driving.  That’s 26% of crashes due to texting.  Thirty-three percent of drivers surveyed admitting to texting and driving often.

I’m not talking about while sitting at a red light, mind you.  I was hurtling down the interstate all day long today passing one car after another with cell phone aloft as the driver was either reading or typing a text.

Please stop.

As families head out in their SUVs and head to grandmas, the beach, the mountains, wherever, please keep your cell phone stowed away until you get to a rest stop.

I firmly believe that penalties for drivers who cause an accident (if they survive) due to texting and driving should face the same penalties as drunk drivers.  They are both incredibly dangerous.  The general public widely supports stiffer penalties  yet so far nothing much as been done on that front (with the exception of Alaska who reduced penalties).

Perhaps we could just govern ourselves on this one, eh?


Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.