I read this article in the New York Times last week on stiffer British penalties for texting while driving. I like Britain's approach although I think the driver in the case discussed in the article got off too lightly! She got a much bigger penalty than she would have gotten in the U.S., though.
The offense described in this section, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device, is a Class D traffic violation.
A Class D traffic violation? Is this a joke?! That carries a penalty of $97. To put it in perspective, here are some other Class D traffic violations:
- Driving 1 to 10 miles over the speed limit
- Protruding into a pedestrian crosswalk at a stop light
- Blocking traffic by temporarily stopping or driving too slowly
This is way too lenient in my opinion! I would think Class A or B would be more appropriate. Because talking on the cell phone puts other people's safety at risk, it should be compared to something like "reckless endangerment of a highway worker" (Class A) or "careless driving" (Class B).
For those readers in denial who say, "I can talk on my cell (or text) perfectly safely while driving", please refer to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute report that found that texting increased collision risk by 23 times. That same article cites a study that found a 4 times increase in collision risk caused by talking on the cell phone (regardless of whether hands-free mode is used).
One thing is for sure: the federal government isn't looking out for us. I'm still trying to figure out why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration buried data showing the mobile phone use dangerously distracts drivers.
I'm going to write my Oregon state legislative representative (Ginny Burdick) and see about getting the penalties increased. Not that I'm optimistic that anything will change. But at least it's a start...
That, and a personal plea to the intelligent readers of my blog to never text while driving and to limit talking on the cell phone to absolute emergencies!