Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why No Ban On Texting-While-Driving?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans yesterday to convene a national summit to study texting-while-driving. "If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting," LaHood said. According to a recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who were texting while driving were 23 times more likely to have an accident than were non-distracted drivers. By comparison, those driving at the legal "drunk driving" limit increased their risk of an accident by about 7 times. Despite this, only 16 states currently ban texting-while-driving, and some of those bans extend only to teenagers or are limited in other ways.

Is texting-while-driving treated so much less harshly under the law in the United States: (i) because the law is slow to catch up with the rapid technological advances of recent years, (ii) because the perceived societal benefits of texting dramatically exceed those of drinking alcohol, or (iii) because of the lingering influence of the country's puritan heritage on our laws. Or perhaps all three?

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