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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Texting ban sends wrong message

    If you’re looking for an excellent April Fool’s Day prank, tell your friends texting is legal while driving.

    Starting April 1, texting while driving will be illegal in Tucson. If caught, drivers will have to pay a fine of at least $100. If a driver gets in an accident because he or she was texting, it will cost them at least an additional $250.

    Police officials in Phoenix, where there is already a texting law, say it’s a hard law to enforce and is rarely upheld. University of Arizona Police Department officers won’t enforce the ban because they follow state law, not city ordinances.

    The idea may appear to be a step toward making the streets safer, but it’s hard for anyone, even the police, to control what people do in the confines of their own vehicle.

    For example, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild rear-ended a truck when he tried to grab a notebook from the passenger seat. He may not have been texting, but he was still distracted enough to be at fault for an accident.

    Should the city then ban the act of reaching over to grab stuff in your car? Eating? Drinking your morning coffee? Changing the radio station?

    Anything you do in your car that doesn’t deal with actually driving could be grounds for outlawing it.

    The National Transportation Safety Board recommended all 50 states ban using cellphones and all other electronic devices while driving, including hands-free devices. But, while officials may have good intentions with these recommendations, studies show that these laws have little to no effect on traffic accidents.

    The Highway Loss Data Institute released a study in 2010 that showed there hadn’t been a significant change in the rate of car accidents since before and after California’s 2008 anti-texting law was enacted.

    “We’re not saying cellphone use is less risky than we thought,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “What we’re seeing in this study is that the hand-held cellphone laws are not reducing crashes.”

    The institute also looked at three other states that had implemented texting bans and found that the number of accidents had actually increased, according to CBS News. Researchers told CBS that one reason could be that people text despite the law, but now hold their phones below the dashboard, taking their eyes off the road entirely.

    Tucson’s ordinance allows police officers to pull drivers over for reading or composing a text message. So of course drivers are going to hold their phones in their laps to keep a police officer from seeing them.

    Officials attempting to make the roads safer are actually increasing the danger.

    Implementing a ban on using cellphones while driving is extreme and ineffective. And the Tucson City Council is naive to think people will suddenly stop texting and driving.

    People will always find ways around the law.

    So come April, Tucson drivers will be looking out for lurking police officers while they inevitably are texting and driving — just one more thing for drivers to do besides look in front of them. Congratulations, council members, can’t wait to text “LOL,” when this all blows up in your face.

    _— Serena Valdez is a journalism junior. She can be reached at
    letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions

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