Since 2010, it’s been illegal in Tennessee for motorists to engage in text messaging by cell phone while driving.
Traffic experts agree that driver texting is hazardous. Accident statistics back them up: Texting is dangerously distracting.
Yet ticketing for texting remains pretty rare. The Tennessean in Nashville surveyed records for 15 Middle Tennessee law enforcement agencies and found just 389 tickets issued since the law took effect. That’s an average of about six or seven arrests per year for each agency — about one every two months.
A large part of the reason is that it can be tough to catch a motorist in the act and to make a charge stick. The driver can always say he was only dialing, which for some reason isn’t against the law.
Sometimes the officer can write a ticket instead for violation of a state law that requires motorists to provide the proper amount of attention to the road while driving.
What’s clearly needed is a better way for the traffic cop to know for sure whether a motorist is texting. Perhaps technology will someday offer a solution.
Meanwhile, it’s a life-and-death matter, and it’s not just about personal freedom. Statisticians estimate that a driver distracted by cell phone use is 23 more times likely to have an accident.
That puts those who don’t text at risk.
-The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tenn.