News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

July 1, 2014

Editorial: Texting law serves safety

Heightened awareness of law and dangers is positive effect

TERRE HAUTE — July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.

Each year since the law was passed, there have been discussions about its impact and whether it’s served much of a purpose. Statistics always show that few violators have been cited, and law enforcement officials decry the difficulty police have proving that violations have actually occurred.

There is no question that the law Hoosier lawmakers adopted would be tough to enforce. And while most people agreed that texting while driving and other cellphone activities behind the wheel of motor vehicles are unsafe practices, it has been equally clear that potential legal remedies are fraught with flaws.

Despite all that, this law, and laws of this kind, are absolutely worth having on the books. If nothing else, the awareness level about the dangers of this type of behavior is raised by significant degrees. Does anyone doubt that at least some people modified their behavior behind the wheel knowing that the potential existed for them to be cited for violating the no-texting-while-driving law?

In a news report published last weekend, an Indiana State Police official estimated that fewer than 400 motorists were ticketed for illegal texting in the first two years of the law, even though state police in 2010 linked more than 1,000 car crashes to cellphone use. Four of those crashes involved fatalities.

Lawmakers will continue to debate the issue. Some now suggest changing the law to make it more effective. Others doubt that strategy would produce the desired results. Rather, they say more education and awareness would be the better approach.

It’s always good to keep an open mind about alternative ways to address serious public safety issues. The debate will, and should, go on. But we’re convinced the law has already had a positive impact on highway safety. Showing people the consequences of reckless behavior is a powerful deterrent, and emphasizing that it’s also illegal just underscores its importance.

Don’t let meaningless citation statistics cloud the issue. Indiana’s law is making a difference.

 

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