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Senate Bill seeks to combat texting and driving

Many RBHS students have difficulty keeping their hands off their phones and on the wheel. If it passes, a new bill would improve this dilemma.

For the average person, the time lapse between each blink amounts to five seconds. Those five seconds also represent the minimal amount of time a driver’s eyes are off the road when texting and driving.  While Senator David Pearce is sponsoring a bill that would ban texting and driving for all ages, he hasn’t always kept his hands on the wheel and his phone tucked away.

“One time I was texting and driving, and my son who was about 21 at the time just told me while I was doing it, ‘Dad, you’re going to die,’” Pearce said. “He just matter-of-factly said, ‘If you keep up this behavior, you’re going to die,’ and I think that was pretty sobering.”

The truth in his son’s statement became one of two reasons why Pearce decided sponsor this new bill. Previously, former senator Ryan McKenna spearheaded an effort to ban texting and driving for all ages, but when he left the Senate, Pearce decided this idea was too good to let go.

Currently, texting and driving is only considered a moving violation if the driver is under 21. Pearce’s bill, SB 569, would omit the 21 and younger proviso and make texting while driving a moving violation for all ages.

“Right now, that puts a pretty tough decision on law enforcement to decide, is that person 19 or is she 23?” Pearce said. “Now, if no one can text, that makes it a much easier call for law enforcement.”

On any given time during the day, approximately 660,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging while driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely, according to textinganddrivingsafety.com. Dialing increases the risk of crash by 2.8 times and reaching for a device puts drivers 1.4 times more at risk for a crash. Even though research supports the danger of texting while driving and distracted driving, some drivers are concerned with the bill’s infringement on personal freedoms.

“I’ll be honest, we’re facing an uphill battle. I think the biggest argument against it is personal freedom, that, ‘I should be able to do what I want in my own car, and no one should be able to tell me what to do,’” Pearce said. “I don’t agree with that because I think the behaviors you have inside your car not only affect you, but everyone in the car, and everyone you meet on the highway. You definitely are affecting others.”

Senior Logan Stichter made what he likes to call a “not-as-wise” decision when he texted and drove on an empty road. While no harm came to him or others, he still refrains from texting when his car is in motion.

“It seems incredibly irresponsible to text while driving,” Stichter said. “If you text while driving, it’s distracting for anybody any age and so it’s probably not best to restrict that based on age limits because that doesn’t necessarily dictate how responsible you are.”

While Stitcher and Senior Paulina Morales both text while stopped at a red light, research shows that even after drivers put down their phone, drivers still aren’t fully engaged cognitively. This distraction latency lasts an average of 27 seconds, meaning 27 seconds of distracted driving even after removing the distraction, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“I don’t think people should do it, but at the same time, I know it’s hard for somebody to put their phone down,” Paulina Morales said. “Normally, at a stop light,  I grab my phone, but when I’m driving, I try to put it down, but it’s just a bad habit.”

With Pearce’s new bill, only texting while driving would be a moving violation, leaving drivers still free to calling and drive.

“I think you have to start somewhere. Last year when I filed the bill, it was a little bit more encompassing and I found more opposition to it,” Pearce said. “We basically said you couldn’t make phone calls, it had to be all hands-free, it couldn’t be hand-held, but we got some opposition. So this year, it’s just no texting and driving.”

Along with Pearce’s senate bill, there’s another senate bill sponsored by Jill Schupp as well as two other house bills (HB 1377 and  HB 1423) that would result in a texting and driving ban for all drivers. Another house bill sponsored by Cloria Brown, HB 1542, would only permit hands-free texting, and HB 1544, also sponsored by Brown, would outlaw any use of a handheld communications device while driving.

“To me, the more interest you have, the more bills are out there, the better off it is,” Pearce said. “What we might end up doing is combining two or three bills together and I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s going to be my bill or somebody else’s. The important thing is to prevent texting and driving.”

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