Highlights from the AAA Foundation report
- 90 percent of respondents said people driving after drinking alcohol was a very serious threat to their safety; 87 percent said the same thing about text messaging or e-mailing while driving.
- 80 percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a very serious threat to their safety, yet many admitted performing distracted behaviors such as talking on the cell phone or texting or e-mailing while driving within the past month.
- Over two-thirds admitted to talking on a cell phone, and 21 percent admitted to reading or sending a text message or e-mail while driving in the past month.
Source: 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index
Legislation introduced by the U.S. Senate could have Georgia looking to ban texting while driving, but local law enforcement officials say that laws on cell phone use are hard to enforce.
The legislation, introduced in late July, would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. It would be patterned after the way Congress required states to adopt a national drunken driving ban. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal, according to the Associated Press.
While many think it is important to curb texting on the road, there is debate about how effective a law could be.
Gainesville Georgia State Patrol Post Commander Dean Allen said he thinks enforcing a ban on texting while driving would be very difficult.
"The law is only as good as your ability to enforce it," Allen said.
It’s hard to determine when accidents are caused by texting. Unless someone volunteers the information, the cause is typically labeled distraction, Allen said.
"We have nothing set in place to gather that information," Allen said. "You never have anybody say, ‘Yeah, I was texting.’"
According to the AAA Foundation’s 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 90 percent of respondents said people driving after drinking alcohol was a very serious threat to their safety, while 87 percent said the same about text messaging or e-mailing while driving.
Yet 21 percent admitted to reading or sending a text message or e-mail while driving in the past month.
Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper said texting is just one of many distractions that he sees on roads each day. "There’s a lot of things people don’t need to be doing while they’re driving," Hooper said. "Folks are doing a multitude of things from putting on make-up to shaving."
Hooper said people should pay more attention to the road while driving.
"It’s unfortunate that we have to create laws for things that are common sense," he said. "Folks just need to take care of driving while driving."
Hooper said people who need to conduct business in the car should get a hands-free device for their cell phone so they can keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Col. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said of accidents sheriff’s deputies responded to in the last 60 days, one had cell phone use as a contributing factor.
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers of heavy trucks who texted were 23 times more likely to have a collision while dialing a cell phone. Also, using electronics increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks, the institute found.