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Utah Law Punishes Texters As Much As Drunks In Driving Fatalities

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the g2g-ran-ovr-sum-guy dept.

Communications 620

The NY Times reports on legislation in Utah which harshly penalizes people who cause fatal car accidents while texting. Instead of merely facing a fine, offenders may now get up to 15 years in jail — the same as drunk drivers. "In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless. 'It's a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you're assuming the same risk.' The Utah law represents a concrete new response in an evolving debate among legislators around the country about how to reduce the widespread practice of multitasking behind the wheel — a topic to be discussed at a national conference about the dangers of distracted driving that is being organized by the Transportation Department for this fall."

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I have no problem with this. (5, Insightful)

Mononoke (88668) | about 5 years ago | (#29242017)

This appears to be the correct legislative response, for once.

Re:I have no problem with this. (3, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 5 years ago | (#29242045)

Yep. If they decide to look at a screen for a 10-second period while they write a text at 65 mph, and take both hands off the wheel to do so, they get what they deserve.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

Kagura (843695) | about 5 years ago | (#29242549)

If somebody does this they deserve what's coming. For me looking at a text it's:

1-second glance to see a couple of words.
Glance back up to make sure nothing's changed, takes 1.5sec or so to get my full bearings enough to understand complete situation.
1-second glance to see a couple of words.
Etc.

Writing a text is the same thing... except I usually only get out ONE or TWO letters on iPhone before I have to look back up (about 1sec later).

I try not to do this while driving because it's really DUMB. I would estimate I've done it about 30 times over the last 6 months of driving. I don't do it during traffic jam situation or where traffic could decide to halt quickly. I always drive with 3-4 second delay (0...1...2...3...4 style counting not 1...2...3...4 style counting). I hold the phone up in above the steering wheel while typing a couple letters at the time, so I can see brakelights during the one-second typings. I try to mitigate risks as best as I can but sometimes I feel the lack of risk at the time makes a good trade off for how important I feel the text is at the time.

Re:I have no problem with this. (4, Insightful)

eiapoce (1049910) | about 5 years ago | (#29242607)

I would estimate I've done it about 30 times over the last 6 months of driving.

That is roughtly 30 times too much.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

Kagura (843695) | about 5 years ago | (#29242633)

30 is a lot more times than 30 times zero ;)

I'm the gp... ;)

Re:I have no problem with this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242053)

Concur. Tasks that take your eyes off the road (after your attention, digits, ...) are too much. Call, or if it's so important to communicate at that instant, get off the #!&#!^% road.

Re:I have no problem with this. (5, Informative)

phoenixwade (997892) | about 5 years ago | (#29242065)

Yup, not much else to say - Utah got this one right.

Re:I have no problem with this. (5, Insightful)

solevita (967690) | about 5 years ago | (#29242165)

+1

I'm worried about the tone of the submission, however; Soulskill thinks that if you cause a fatal accident you should "merely face a fine". What a fucking moron.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

impaledsunset (1337701) | about 5 years ago | (#29242335)

And if you weren't responsible for the fatal accident, he would have been right. The problem is not that somebody caused a fatal accident, but because they were fucking reckless, and were texting while driving, which they shouldn't do.

Re:I have no problem with this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242507)

I don't think that's necessarily true. He could think that a fine is too light, hence it's "merely" a fine.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

solevita (967690) | about 5 years ago | (#29242625)

Possibly, although the prison sentence is describe as "harsh", a comment that influenced my original reading of the summary. I suppose we can agree that Soulskill could use a clearer writing style; hard though, I guess, if you're just copy and pasting bits of the New York Times.

Re:I have no problem with this. (-1, Flamebait)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | about 5 years ago | (#29242245)

Finally Utah does something right

Re:I have no problem with this. (0)

DarkVader (121278) | about 5 years ago | (#29242355)

No, this is about as wrong as you can get.

Locking up somebody for 15 years for a moment of misjudgment is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever. Just from a cost standpoint, it's fantastically expensive. And it removes someone from the realm of taxpayer and turns them into a burden on society.

It's going to be an utter failure as a deterrent as well, because no one considers the possibility of killing someone before texting while driving, and therefore no one will consider the possibility of this penalty.

The US already locks up more of its population than any other nation in the world. It's time to fix that, not make it worse.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242409)

This isn't locking someone up for "a moment of misjudgement". It's locking them up for the safety of the greater public. If it's you getting locked up, you're getting locked up because you were an asshole with no regard for other peoples safety.

It's going to be an utter failure as a deterrent as well

It'll become a fantastic deterrent the moment the first person gets jailed under this law.

Re:I have no problem with this. (3, Interesting)

cavehobbit (652751) | about 5 years ago | (#29242431)

Oops, sorry about that. I was texting while testing my MAC-9 sub-machine gun next door. Sorry about your family re-union, I had no idea other people were behind those shrubs what with the music and all. Is that fine based on each occurrence or per body? Do you take Amex?

Re:I have no problem with this. (5, Insightful)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#29242511)

Locking up somebody for 15 years for a moment of misjudgment is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever.

Perhaps, but at least it's fair in the sense that some malevolent behaviors aren't unjustly punished while others are given short shrift. It is somewhat nice to see legislation that targets the end, as opposed to the means (for a change). There is much less hypocrisy in this law. But really, what you call a "moment of misjudgment" is a highly conscious and deliberate act. If I was to get run over by somebody, it really wouldn't matter to my bones whether a person took a sip of beer or was playing video games or texting or talking to somebody on a cellular phone or snorting cocaine. Sometimes stupidity needs to be punished, if only to satisfy some innate desire for justice.

It would be much better if there were preventative measures in place; like a culture that values intelligence and human life and passes down traditions of self respect and respect for others. Unfortunately people would rather preach than practice their ideals.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

ErikZ (55491) | about 5 years ago | (#29242559)

So...the punishment should be execution?

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 5 years ago | (#29242599)

And presumably you'd happily explain that to the children of someone who's just been killed by a TXT DRVR?

At this point, your choices are to lie, or STFU.

"no one considers the possibility of killing..." (1)

Animaether (411575) | about 5 years ago | (#29242605)

no one considers the possibility of killing someone before texting while driving

Maybe - just maybe - enough media attention and (sadly) a few high profile cases will change that.

You should consider the possibility of killing someone while driving, period. The moment you realize that (but don't let it turn to paranoia and make you hesitant to get behind the wheel at all), you start wondering if you -really- need to be looking at that map on the seemingly empty stretch of road in front of you... whether you -really- need to answer that call right now in busy traffic... whether you -really- need to reach under the passenger seat for that bottle of water that got away from you; and so forth, and so on.

That said.. I don't think most of these should carry the same penalty as when DUI; being on the phone may be arguable, but they all rather fall under the idea that you're just not paying (enough) attention to the road. When you're DUI (be that alcohol or drugs, OTC, prescription or otherwise as applicable), you're intoxicated - completely different state of mind often resulting in sluggishness. Being on the phone may have you distracted and less likely to notice something -to- react to, but I don't think I've seen any studies that claim that your reaction time itself is decreased once you -do- notice something to react to.

I would modify the legislation. (2, Insightful)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 5 years ago | (#29242365)

Driving is a responsibility. You are operating a motor vehicle and there is ALWAYS the potential
for 'accidents'. Anything you do that interferes with your maximum concentration while operating the vehicle, is something you should not be doing.

Messing with the radio, adjusting your mirrors(something you should have done before starting the car), putting make-up on, the list can be endless, all interfere with your job. Your job is to operate the vehicle to the best of your ability. If you cannot understand these simple things, you should not be driving a motor vehicle.

I would welcome such laws nationally. But make them mandatory time, not discretionary time. 15
years hard labor repairing the roads you did the violation upon. I would remove the word fatal from the legislation. Any such stupidity should not be rewarded. You wreck my car, you pay the price.

In actuality, more of these types of drivers Cause Others to have accidents. They should not get away.

Re:I have no problem with this. (0)

Uksi (68751) | about 5 years ago | (#29242387)

The problem is that now you're at the mercy of the cop. Not sure how they are where you live, but between me and my friends here in good old Massachusetts, we have been illegally searched by a pissed off statie, many times pulled over for bullshit reasons (were not the ones speeding, were not the ones peeling out in a nearby parking lot).

Do you ever play a little much with the radio in your car, looking too long trying to dial in a specific radio frequency? OK, so that's an instance of distracted driving that's as bad as typing a text message for the same 10 seconds, for the same basic reason that you are not paying attention to the road. Have you been involved in a really intense conversation (fighting with your girlfriend, e.g.) while driving and were deep in that instead of thinking about what's around you?

Have you ever spent too long starting at the windshield-mounted GPS screen trying to figure out just where the hell it's telling you to go? Distracted driving. Have you spent too long fishing around in your car for that gadget or sandwich or whatever else you were trying to get?

Anyways, distracted driving is a driver's mindset. You are either aware of the fact that you are not looking at the road when you do certain things and then you do your best to NOT do those things. Or you are not aware and you do other dumb things, in addition to texting.

So what now? I am sitting at a red stoplight, which I know takes at least a minute to switch. I can't take 10 seconds to text someone that I'll be late? It's perfectly safe and the worst thing is that I'll get honked at if the light turns green before I pay attention. I have made a thoughtful, careful choice. Yet according to the law, I am as bad as a drunk driver. Fuck yeah America!

  In my opinion, it would've been more effective to start education campaigns and enforcing extensively a simple moving violation ticket. Nobody wants to get a moving violation because your insurance rates start going up (no matter whether you were ticketed for a 5mph over or running a red light). With enforcement and public education, you would've had much higher impact than by declaring that you can face a 15 year jail sentence.

The only people who are truly happy about this are the lawyers who are about to get a lot more business than DUI defense.

Re:I have no problem with this. (5, Insightful)

RogL (608926) | about 5 years ago | (#29242489)

So what now? I am sitting at a red stoplight, which I know takes at least a minute to switch. I can't take 10 seconds to text someone that I'll be late? It's perfectly safe and the worst thing is that I'll get honked at if the light turns green before I pay attention. I have made a thoughtful, careful choice. Yet according to the law, I am as bad as a drunk driver.

Actually, according to the law, if you cause a fatal accident while texting you're as bad as a drunk driver.
If you're sitting at a red light, it would be difficult to cause a fatal accident; the only possibility I see is if you are hit by someone not expecting a car stopped at a green light, and that's arguably the fault of both drivers.
So don't text while moving, and you should be fine. Amazing concept I know, but seems to be the intent of the law.

Re:I have no problem with this. (0, Troll)

pdabbadabba (720526) | about 5 years ago | (#29242647)

So what now? I am sitting at a red stoplight, which I know takes at least a minute to switch. I can't take 10 seconds to text someone that I'll be late? It's perfectly safe and the worst thing is that I'll get honked at if the light turns green before I pay attention. I have made a thoughtful, careful choice. Yet according to the law, I am as bad as a drunk driver. Fuck yeah America!

I think this is just an incorrect interpretation of the law. The law only punishes you if you are texting while causing a fatal accident. I don't see how this is possible while stopped at a red light. By punishing the texter only when his behavior causes fatalities, they have gone out of their way to make it possible to do exactly what you envision without penalty: text responsibly while stopped at a light, or in some other safe situation while punishing the truly reckless.

Re:I have no problem with this. (-1, Flamebait)

ancient_kings (1000970) | about 5 years ago | (#29242649)

Agreed a 150% fucking percent. Most of these dumbs laws are really meant to keep 90% of the "cops", prosecutors, judges and politicans with high paying "jobs" and a great pension after 15-20 years. The worse offenders are cops. The TOP 20 Most Dangerous jobs DO NOT INCLUDE LAW ENFORCEMENT! Its a farce, a lie, a dribble. Fire 90% of the cops, prosecutors, lawyers, judges and you'll see some money returning to the state.

Re:I have no problem with this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242451)

Almost. Note the particular quote from TFA:

 

(Many legislators have thus far made a distinction between texting and dialing, though researchers say dialing creates many of the same risks.)

While I totally applaud this start, the above distinction continues to display just how ridiculously stupid many legislators are. Seriously.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | about 5 years ago | (#29242675)

That, if they ban texting, no excuses for dialing.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

cavehobbit (652751) | about 5 years ago | (#29242517)

+1 Check the stats for the US. Cars are misused to kill more people every year in the U.S. than guns are. Whether you look at just the grand total, or per-capita, or per-thousand owned. It is about time we held people responsible for the consequences of their actions regardless of the activity they were engaged in or the thing they were using. Gun, car, knife, 2x4, all can cause injury or worse. I remember back in the 1970's, (yeah, lawn, get off of it, yada...), being drunk was an EXCUSE to avoid responsibility for an accident, if not avoid vehicular man-slaughter charges. You should be able to do anything you want, play with guns, cars, drugs, politics, RealDolls, whatever, but if you screw up, no excuses. What penalty should apply in what situations can be debated, but at the very least, you should be held liable for cost of repair or replacement for any damage caused, and in the case of serious injury or death, imprisonment for the future protection of society.

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 years ago | (#29242541)

Drunk drivers have it easier I think... they get breathalyzers in their cars... I think installing and cell phone jammer in the car would be the rough equivalent. Actually, if someone sold a mobile phone jammer that I could install into my own car, it would remove such temptations in the first place.

We are all way too hooked on instant communications and it needs to be rebalanced with some anti-tech. I don't think it's enough to merely turn off the phone when driving. My damned blackberry is nice but takes like 2+ minutes to boot! An automated standby mode when in proximity to my car would be a really nice thing, but a jammer would do just as well. (But would I be able to resist the temptation to boost the signal to disconnect everyone around me within a 30 yard radius?)

Re:I have no problem with this. (1)

moon3 (1530265) | about 5 years ago | (#29242545)

I disagree, how do you prove somebody was texting ? How do you prove persons real involvement ? Most road incidents are true incidents and not homicides.

I don't see a problem. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242025)

Weather you're texting while driving or drunk driving, either way you're an asshole with no regard for the safety of yourself or those around you. Have fun serving your fifteen year sentence, you deserve every second of it.

Actual risk? (4, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 years ago | (#29242041)

Does anyone know if traffic accident rates have gone up in recent years?

I haven't heard that they have. But if talking on a cell phone, or texting, while driving is really as dangerous as it seems, I would have expected accident rates to rise significantly.

Re:Actual risk? (1)

Aviation Pete (252403) | about 5 years ago | (#29242093)

Does anyone know if traffic accident rates have gone up in recent years?

I haven't heard that they have. But if talking on a cell phone, or texting, while driving is really as dangerous as it seems, I would have expected accident rates to rise significantly.

I don't need some statistics - for me it is enough to be able to spot drivers on the phone reliably from their inept driving from 100m (330 ft, for you Americans) afar. That they have a higher likelihood of being involved in an accident is obvious.

Re:Actual risk? (1)

woodchip (611770) | about 5 years ago | (#29242433)

You really think Americans can't multiply by 3ish in our head?

Re:Actual risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242523)

It's not that we can't multiply it's that most wouldn't know what a meter is.

Re:Actual risk? (1)

DarkVader (121278) | about 5 years ago | (#29242465)

"I don't need some statistics" - The science is irrelevant, I'm going with my gut reaction and clamoring for the government to DO SOMETHING!!! Oh Noes!!!

The statistics will of course show that fatal crashes are dropping as cell phone use is increasing, which is likely why you don't want to look at them.

It's difficult to find total crash numbers quickly, but I suspect that cell phone use likely has very little to do with it. The drivers who are distracted by a cell phone are likely to be drivers who would be distracted by something else if the cell phone wasn't there.

Re:Actual risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242657)

Global temperatures are also strongly correlated with the price of U.S. postage.

Doesn't mean that's the reason for it.

Re:Actual risk? (5, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 5 years ago | (#29242113)

Does anyone know if traffic accident rates have gone up in recent years?

Irrelevant. Accident rates in general depend on too many other things, including safety features (new and old) in cars on the road, how many cars are on the road, and how the roads are designed.

It's not rocket science to deduce that taking your eyes and mind off the road make you a more dangerous driver. If it's not contributing significantly to the accident rate, that just means that a lot of people, believe it or not, aren't stupid enough to do it.

Re:Actual risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242429)

It's not rocket science to deduce that taking your eyes and mind off the road make you a more dangerous driver. If it's not contributing significantly to the accident rate, that just means that a lot of people, believe it or not, aren't stupid enough to do it.

And of course we've seen that habitual multitaskers do it badly [slashdot.org] .

Re:Actual risk? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 years ago | (#29242645)

Does anyone know if traffic accident rates have gone up in recent years?

Irrelevant. Accident rates in general depend on too many other things, including safety features (new and old) in cars on the road, how many cars are on the road, and how the roads are designed.

It's not rocket science to deduce that taking your eyes and mind off the road make you a more dangerous driver. If it's not contributing significantly to the accident rate, that just means that a lot of people, believe it or not, aren't stupid enough to do it.

Ah, the old Aristotelian approach to understanding the world: empiricism be damned, I'm going with my intuition!

A correct version of your point would be to recommend controlling for those factors. Not entirely dismissing an empirical approach.

Re:Actual risk? (2, Insightful)

SuperDre (982372) | about 5 years ago | (#29242141)

that ofcourse isn't necessary.. accident rates can go down, but the reason why an accident happens can change ofcourse.. So for example if there where a lot of accident because of blindspots on a truck in the past it could be that because of better mirrors/camera's on a truck those kind of accidents have dropped, but because of the rise of stupid people who are texting behind the wheel that kind of accident have increased (but maybe not yet as much as the blindspotreason), so in the end you don't really have an increase in accidentrates, but the reason of the accidents have been changed..

Re:Actual risk? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242225)

Yes, that have, SMS is now a bigger cause of crashes than DUI. I recently had to attend a defensive driving course and there were plenty of barcharts illustrating the rise in crashes due to idiots that think they can safely read and compose messages. The figures were qualified saying that their figures only included those that admitted to SMSing, so the reality could be much higher.

Re:Actual risk? (1)

walshy007 (906710) | about 5 years ago | (#29242563)

the idea of 'safely reading' a text message I agree is stupid. However you can very safely compose a text message while driving an automatic at least. Assuming you have a regular non-touch phone and have memorized the position of all the letters, you can write a text without your eyes ever leaving the road, with your left hand on the phone and right hand on the wheel.

Thing is if you do that right nobody can even tell you are using a phone, obviously a lot of people fail at it though.

Re:Actual risk? (2, Insightful)

mokus000 (1491841) | about 5 years ago | (#29242255)

I would not be surprised if the rates have not changed significantly. The problem is not the phones, the problem is the people who do not have enough respect for the 1 million or so Joules of kinetic energy in their control. People have always had things that could have distracted them.

Re:Actual risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242269)

Never mind recent years. Have accident rates gone up since the introduction of CB radios way back in the 70s/80s? Don't seem to remember any furore over all those "1-9 1-9 rubber duck" good buddies driving 18 wheeler trucks, while juggling with a curly microphone cable.

Re:Actual risk? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 5 years ago | (#29242341)

There doesn't seem to be a corresponding increase in accidents caused by using handheld microphones. I don't know if anyone knows why. In the UK the law that says you can't use a mobile phone and drive specifically excludes hand-held two-way radio equipment - either HTs or mobile radios. Possibly the halfduplex nature of the conversation is less distracting than trying to phone. Certainly I find using amateur radio equipment with a handheld mike less distracting than using a mobile phone with a handsfree kit.

Even so, you shouldn't really use handheld microphones anyway. Get a proper handsfree kit with a PTT on the gearknob. I tried using VOX but all that did was transmit to everyone listening on the local repeater when I changed down to third.

Re:Actual risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242279)

The AAA release a study a few months back stating that Driving while Texting was more dangerous that driving drunk.

Here some links I was able to dig up:

http://www.sandiegoinjurylawyerblog.com/2009/07/study_shows_driving_while_text.html

http://www.dui.com/dui-library/news/texting-more-dangerous-than-dui

Re:Actual risk? (2, Insightful)

Uksi (68751) | about 5 years ago | (#29242303)

Traffic fatalities rates have actually been steadily going down in the recent years [dot.gov] and are lowest they ever were. I think this is mostly due to better cars (for example, stability control reduces accidents by about 30%, we have better tires, fewer old cars on the road that can't make a good evasive maneuver).

Re:Actual risk? (1)

mmalove (919245) | about 5 years ago | (#29242435)

I know in Virginia laws were passed recently making this illegal as well, though I'm not sure the same stiff penalties are put into place. But the point's the same: if you can't be bothered to keep your hands on the wheel while driving a car, you don't deserve to drive; further if you hurt someone through such reckless irresponsibility, the consequences should be no different than recklessly shooting a gun in a public area.

Fine by me (5, Insightful)

TheRon6 (929989) | about 5 years ago | (#29242051)

Good! Driving while drunk and driving while texting are both negligent choices. If that choice leads to someone's death, they certainly should be treated equally. If anything driving while texting is worse since your decision making abilities are not hindered by an altered state of mind.

Not the proper way to write laws (1)

elsJake (1129889) | about 5 years ago | (#29242593)

Why does it matter if the negligent choice results in a death or not ? That's purely a thing of chance. They should try and stop negligence altogether rather than negligence_on_bad_days.

While i agree that drunken driving and texting at the wheel should be punished I'd rather it be just as an extra offense rather than as an aggravating one.

I makes no sense to punish someone more for being drunk than reckless as the only reason for him being drunk at the wheel is that he is reckless! In case of an accident one should get charged with both offenses, that might carry the same impact on the sentence but seems more like the proper way to write laws.

This style of writing laws makes people think "it's alright , what are the chances of me killing someone while texting ?". It's more a matter of perception but it does impact how drivers behave.

Good news. (3, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | about 5 years ago | (#29242055)

The NY Times reports on legislation in Utah which harshly penalizes people who cause fatal car accidents while texting. Instead of merely facing a fine, offenders may now get up to 15 years in jail -- the same as drunk drivers.

Good.

So what's the point of this story?

Driving is a responsibility, and if you are irresponsible because you are texting - not merely talking handsfree, not talking hand-to-ear, but typing on a fiddly keyboard, you are going to be distracted. Kill someone doing this, and it isn't an accident, what's accidental about taking your mind off the road.

If you need to text on the road (and also if you need to talk), then pull over somewhere safe and do it there. Or don't answer the phone, and give yourself some "me time" in your own car.

Re:Good news. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242207)

Or don't answer the phone, and give yourself some "me time" in your own car.

I thought the point was to reduce distractions and impediments to driving, sheesh.

talking hand to ear is different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242629)

You still have your eyes on the road and one firm hand on the steering wheel, which is the norm. most people often dont have both hands on the steering wheel. whether tuning the radio or drinking a soda or just tuning the ac.

Sounds like a plan. (3, Insightful)

solios (53048) | about 5 years ago | (#29242067)

Why shouldn't malicious and willful ignorance be punished harshly?

You know better than to get behind the wheel after ten or twelve beers, but some people do it anyway. Driving drunk, driving while texting, driving while playing a gameboy.... frankly, I don't see much of a difference.

Beyond the fact you can turn off the phone or the gameboy in a snap, whereas sobering up takes time. Given that, I'd figure the penalty would be harsher!

Re:Sounds like a plan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242199)

One could also argue that getting behind the wheel while drunk could be the lesser of these two crimes, since the drunk-driver could argue a laps in judgement from the influence of alcohol, while the birdbrain with the cellphone who thought texting while driving was a great idea does not have one valid excuse.

This will work... (4, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | about 5 years ago | (#29242073)

...as it has worked in Canada. The punishment for this kind of crime in Ontario (Canada) is so severe that only fools even dare.

On a side note, the punishment for street racing (going 31 miles above the limit), includes the following done on the spot:

Your car being confiscated, getting fined about US$ 8,000 and having your license suspended for at least 60 days.

Bottom line: It works. I hope those in Utah will see similar results.

Re:This will work... (4, Interesting)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | about 5 years ago | (#29242481)

Ummm? I don't think it worked that well. I live in Ottawa, and in the past week I've almost been clipped by stupid drivers on cell phones three times. It'd be humorous, except it happens at least once a week. Throughout this summer, I've heard street racers a good 4-6 times, which I'll admit is lower than it used to be but it's still going on.

We have the laws, and some of them can be quite harsh, but they don't get enforced enough. It's like the no-smoking-within-9-meters (of a public entrance) law. It's there, it has penalties, quite harsh compared to the crime, but I've watched cops stop and light a cigarettes right beside the signs saying not to smoke there.

My bottom line: Harsh penalties can make people think twice about doing something dumb, but only if they're actually enforced. Of course, YMMV depending on what jurisdiction you live in.

Better than stupid MO law (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242085)

Missouri just passed a law banning texting while driving ONLY FOR DRIVERS UNDER 21!!!
How stupid is that? As if it's OK to willfully distract your attention while driving as long as you're of a certain age.
Being in control of a two-ton projectile in public is a responsibility to be taken seriously. Far too few people do.

Its a Travesty!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242095)

What can they be thinking?!! - next thing you know they're going to make rolling through stop signs, running red lights, and tailgating ticketable offenses. Where will it end?!!

But those are just for the BAD drivers. (4, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 5 years ago | (#29242185)

I've got superhuman reflexes, godlike judgement, and 99.99th-percentile driving skills, so those rules constitute an unconstitutional burden! I can easily thread through cross-traffic in an intersection or use the two-millisecond rule for following, with perfect safety -- as long as all the other drivers refrain from their usual rank idiocy.

Oh, sorry, I though this was a speed-limit thread.

ROFLMAO (1, Offtopic)

AlpineR (32307) | about 5 years ago | (#29242109)

best dept name evar
thx /.

Re:ROFLMAO (2, Funny)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#29242329)

I didn't think it was that funny.

I never thought I would say this... (2, Funny)

DragonPup (302885) | about 5 years ago | (#29242147)

I agree with Utah.

Wow, that felt dirty.

This argues for more public transportation (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 5 years ago | (#29242187)

Seriously, if you want to text while traveling, take a bus/train! I don't know why people in the US are so deadset against public transportation. I can be much more productive while riding the train/bus than I can(and should!) be while driving.

Re:This argues for more public transportation (2, Informative)

east coast (590680) | about 5 years ago | (#29242539)

Being a Pittsburgh suburbanite I can tell you why...

I once looked into the bus system to get me back and forth to college. This college is about 30 miles from where I live in the most direct street route possible. Do you know how long it would take to get to using a bus? About 2 hours. This isn't taking into consideration that:
  • The nearest bus stop is about 20-30 minutes from my home (on foot)
  • The bus isn't going to arrive just as my class starts.
  • The bus isn't going to be there just as my class ends.
  • No weekend service.
  • The latest the bus runs up to my home town is 10pm. That means no classes after 8 pm. That means no night school. I'm a working guy.

Put all of this together and my best case scenario using public transportation it would take me about 5 hours a day to get from my doorstep to were I am going to/from. This doesn't include all the other times I would be spent waiting on a bus before and after class. Work was no different except that it was faster to get there. Even in that case I would have shown up to work 45 minutes early and not been able to get home until 3 hours after work. 4 hours of standing around versus driving myself? I'll drive myself. Public transportation for suburbanites is abysmal.

Re:This argues for more public transportation (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 5 years ago | (#29242577)

I actually grew up a Pittsburgh suburbanite and the lack of public transportation(along with the massive numbers of SUVs) is one of the reasons I packed up and moved to another continent.

Re:This argues for more public transportation (2, Funny)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | about 5 years ago | (#29242601)

My biggest beef with public transportation is the seats are generally set up in pairs of two. I take up almost 1.5 of the seats, I'm not fat, they're just rather small... I need to literally turn my shoulders on a 45 degree angle if someone is to sit comfortably beside me, and I'm not really that large of a person.

Now, enter the obese person who is all sweaty from lumbering to the bus... who literally COULD take up both of the seats in a pair... who somehow doesn't realize they can't even fit a single ass cheek on the .5 of seat that is left, and then proceed to try to fit into that space, ramming me against the side of the bus with their sweaty fat folds. Not really productive when my cell phone in my pocket is buried under a wave of someone else's sweaty fat. 2 weeks ago, one guy did this who smelled so bad that when I got to work, my boss could smell the fat sweat off of me. Thank god I bring a change of clothes for working out, I just wore them instead.

I've been taking public transportation for years and ignorant fat people are my longest running complaint. If it was once or twice, I wouldn't care... but it's more like once a month. /rant

Good! It should be Federal law. (3, Insightful)

neowolf (173735) | about 5 years ago | (#29242201)

I'm with others on this... Distracted driving like this is responsible for a lot of severe and fatal "accidents". As someone else said- it is willful misconduct that should be punished. Driving a car is dangerous, period. If you are driving a car- that should be ALL you are doing is driving. If you aren't focused on what you are doing- you are putting your life, and those of everyone around you, in danger. Why is that so hard for some people to understand? I have a 32-mile long commute to work every day, and EVERY DAY I see people swerving out of their lane and driving erratically while gabbing or texting on a cell phone. I almost get hit at least once a week by one of these winners.

Re:Good! It should be Federal law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242301)

yeah, hand over more power to the federal government. make it even harder to pass legislation that is line with the overall well being of your state. what a great idea!

handing over power to the federal government is like bending over in loaded jail cell.

Typical politician response (4, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 5 years ago | (#29242227)

Let's pass a new law for every single type of driving distraction that comes along instead of writing one law that covers the general case of distracted driving. That way we can make it look like we are responding to every new problem that comes along so we get reelected more easily.

Re:Typical politician response (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242399)

Whilst I agree with you, creating specific laws (or applying specific examples to an existing law) can actually make things simpler. If you were texting when you had a driving incident, then you're guilty. No arguments in court (with swayable juries) about how distracting texting is, because the law recognises that the argument is answered - it's distracting. It actually tells drivers that they shouldn't do that specific thing, so they might not risk doing it. And it specifically states that texting makes a car incident not an accident, but a felony.

Keep your phone in your pocket/bag when driving, ignore all and any bleeps it tells you about. Simples.

So right and yet so wrong! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242235)

"In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless."

Nodding off while driving is not an accident. If you are tired, stop the car and sleep it of. It is just as bad driving tired as driving intoxicated!

Sensible (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29242237)

It should not matter why you are unable to concentrate on what's going on in front of your car if you're responsible for the distraction. Whether it's drinking or texting, in both cases you made the decision that you want to drink/text instead of concentrate on traffic, you're responsible for the outcome.

How do you enforce this? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242277)

"We found a mobile phone in your car, you must have been texting"? Maybe you started texting before driving and paused in the middle because you had to drive. There's no way to prove this.

Re:How do you enforce this? (4, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about 5 years ago | (#29242537)

Phone records show that you sent a text message 15 seconds before the accident? It's pretty easy to prove, actually.

Plus all these phones have GPS in them these days. It won't be long before they know you were doing 60 mph when you sent that message.

Re:How do you enforce this? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242703)

If the text was completed and sent 15 seconds before the accident, I think it's extremely unlikely it caused the accident.

You're right about the GPS blackbox though. I wish you weren't.

Re:How do you enforce this? (1)

FourthAge (1377519) | about 5 years ago | (#29242575)

In the UK the phone records are usually used to prove that somebody's been texting while driving. This only catches people who actually send their messages.

Here's the most famous example [telegraph.co.uk] . Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, killed somebody because he was texting while driving. He got off with a shockingly light sentence which prompted cries of political interference.

Re:How do you enforce this? (2, Insightful)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | about 5 years ago | (#29242693)

Maybe there's a major accident, and they discover that one of the drivers had sent 2 texts within the last 5 minutes. Of course, they would either have to examine your phone or get the co-operation of your cell phone provider for these things. I remember reading a report of a driver here in Canada (either BC or Alberta) where they pinpointed what happened from his cell phone records. He had sent a text less than 30 seconds before the accident occurred.

Of course, he had splattered himself all over the pavement, so he wasn't around any more to object to them going through those records.

Having said that, I do agree, it would be hard to enforce it in many cases.

The first texting fatality (5, Interesting)

pigwiggle (882643) | about 5 years ago | (#29242295)

to received a lot of attention (here in salt lake) happened a few blocks from my home. I saw it driving to work. A young kid blew the light and t-boned a girl, killing her. The intersection had just been closed when I got to it. It was horrific. I asked my wife if she saw the accident on her way to work. She left 15min before me and, as it turns out, drove through that intersection minutes before the accident. Just by chance neither of us were there when it happened. The poor girl who was killed was just 19 - the stepsister of one of my wife's good friends. There was a PS campaign afterward. Her picture was on billboards all over the city. Whenever I saw one I thought of the kid who killed her, and how he would see them wherever he went.

Re:The first texting fatality (3, Interesting)

Al Dimond (792444) | about 5 years ago | (#29242407)

Wow; I'm amazed it actually got publicity. In Illinois a couple years ago a driver veered onto the shoulder while downloading a ringtone and hit and killed a cyclist. Almost nobody cared. Well, maybe if it had been a pedestrian or motorist killed people would have paid attention; people in America seem to think that cyclists are fair game.

Re:The first texting fatality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242635)

Wow; I'm amazed it actually got publicity. In Illinois a couple years ago a driver veered onto the shoulder while downloading a ringtone and hit and killed a cyclist. Almost nobody cared. Well, maybe if it had been a pedestrian or motorist killed people would have paid attention; people in America seem to think that cyclists are fair game.

The cyclists themselves seem to think that cyclists are fair game. Otherwise why would they ride their bikes on major roads against the flow of traffic during rush hour, as I often see them doing? Honestly they seem to want to put their spandex-covered asses up in the air more than they want to look out for their own safety.

Re:The first texting fatality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242499)

...one of my wives' good friends

Fixed that for you.

Re:The first texting fatality (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242621)

On the bright side, since we're talking about Salt Lake city... She was probably a Mormon and so that makes one less loony on this earth.

Why are we making excuses for idiots? (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 5 years ago | (#29242309)

In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel.

Except nodding off or passing out at the wheel is not an accident. It has a cause (medical or just simply not getting enough sleep.) It's one thing if you have a random stroke nobody saw coming. It's another if the doctor has said "you're at high risk for _______. You should not be driving."

If it's a case where you were simply too tired- well, we're not children and it's not rocket science why you "microsleep" or completely fall asleep at the wheel. It happened to me ONCE- woke up in a different lane than I remembered being in. Scared the crap out of me, and I've since learned to get my ass off the road to a rest-stop for a 20-30 minute nap if I feel any of the signs of being too tired, which are pretty damn hard to miss. And to make sure I get enough sleep if I'm doing a bunch of driving!

I see this all the time with bicyclists who are killed by drivers completely let off the hook. A woman local to Boston was killed in Seattle by an older guy driving his van. On a wide-open highway, in clear weather, in the middle of the day. He was charged with nothing- they said it was due to "inattentiveness." In other words, the fucker wasn't looking where he was going, killed someone, and he gets a free pass? How is that justice? How does that hold people responsible for paying attention to where they pilot a 2-ton hunk of metal at 70 MPH?

Methinks the thought of spending the rest of your life in jail for killing someone with your car would make people pay a little more attention than getting an occasional speeding ticket for doing 5mph more than everyone else, which is only a randomly collected road tax.

Re:Why are we making excuses for idiots? (2, Insightful)

Odinlake (1057938) | about 5 years ago | (#29242513)

Methinks the thought of spending the rest of your life in jail for killing someone with your car would make people pay a little more attention than getting an occasional speeding ticket for doing 5mph more than everyone else, which is only a randomly collected road tax.

While I definately like courts to keep drivers of heavy vehicles on a short leash, I have to point out that there are levels of inattentiveness and levels of difficullt situations.. It'd hardly seem reasonable to send someone to prison for life for blinking twice in a situation where he might have avoided an accident had he blinked once. And surely noone would claim they can maintain the same maximum level of attentiveness throughout a two hour or so, ride?? I think it is very difficullt to judge in such cases unless you can prove something concrete sa. intoxication or cellphone usage. I doubt there're many reliable witnesses.

Jail soccer moms and grandpas...yeah! (0, Troll)

voss (52565) | about 5 years ago | (#29242729)

Because of course you single dudes never had to argue with screaming kids/spouse/SO and then suddenly some dumbass on a bicycle weaves out into traffic....that never happens. *sarcasm*

I see bicyclists all the time weave in front of traffic, even a good driver will have a bad day. A traffic fatality in the absence of reckless behavior is not a criminal act.

Re:Why are we making excuses for idiots? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242581)

Yes. "Accident" should be banished from the English language. Whenever something bad occurs, we should always assign blame to someone and punish them as if was an intentional act. That way, people would always stop to think before every action they take: "Is there a possibility that this might result in harm or injury to someone? Might I wind up in jail?" Of course, the number of people applying for air traffic controller jobs or entering medical school might drop...

My dad used to be a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service before he retired. Due to the climate, slipping on icy sidewalks was always a concern. He told me about how they called a meeting one time and the boss announced that "accidents would not be tolerated." I laughed so hard, I wondered if the guy understood the definition of the word accident.

No problem with the law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242331)

but how do you prove someone was texting or that it was at fault?

What if your phone was just on your seat and in the wreckage it flies out of the car and they find it lying there- "TEXTING! JAIL!"

Or look at the call logs from about when the accident happened, and you'd texted, safely, a minute or two before, and then some jackass cuts you off, forcing you to swerve into the divider?

Or cut it closer- what if you were texting when someone cuts you off, forcing you to swerve into the divider- the same action you'd have taken anyway since you have the ability to drop the phone and keep scanning the road like a few good drivers out there (who probably don't text often anyway).

But how do you prove they were texting? Does the law include just talking? If witnesses say they thought they saw them on the phone, does that count?

Who reads summaries anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29242361)

Yes, i'd like to see them punish the dead! That is a marvellous idea!

Now those suicide bombers certainly have something to fear as well.
72 Virgins? Yeah, more like they will lose their virginity 72 times in after-prison to Bubba.

Re:Who reads summaries anyway? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 5 years ago | (#29242611)

"Yes, i'd like to see them punish the dead! That is a marvellous idea!"

It's key to the social control exercised by religion.

Not "marvellous", but an effective deterrent myth.

This Legislation Needs More Youtube Justification (4, Informative)

JoshDM (741866) | about 5 years ago | (#29242381)

All the way from Europe [youtube.com] ! (warning, graphic scenes!)

This was all over the news this week. I love that video. Every driver's ed class should show it. In full.

Re:This Legislation Needs More Youtube Justificati (2, Insightful)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | about 5 years ago | (#29242527)

Mod parent up.

Go watch it.

Not enough (1)

davmoo (63521) | about 5 years ago | (#29242395)

15 years isn't enough. If it resulted in a fatality, the texting driver should get life (and so should a drunk driver).

Sounds good to me... (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | about 5 years ago | (#29242443)

As someone who doesn't drive and has almost been runover several times when legally crossing the street by some damn idiot on his or her cell phone or texting I have no problem with this...

Re:Sounds good to me... (2, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 5 years ago | (#29242555)

As someone who doesn't drive and has almost been runover several times when legally crossing the street by some damn idiot on his or her cell phone or texting I have no problem with this...

Agreed. As a driver or pedestrian I've been in many close calls because some idiot was on their cellphone. The best is when they start yelling at ME because THEY ran the stop sign or red light without even knowing it.

However on the flip side, I've also almost hit some pedestrians because they were talking on their cellphone and decided to cross illegally without looking to see that I'm already 1 car length away because their cellphone is obscuring their vision of me.

Driving or walking, it's almost like cellphones are accident magnets.

It's about damn time (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | about 5 years ago | (#29242471)

Considering the research suppressed at the behest of the TelCo's proving cell use while driving is tantamount to driving drunk, it's great to see a state taking the lead in this.

I can always tell the cellphone using drivers on our freeways, and I wish my state would do the same thing that Utah has done.

If they truly wanted to stop multitasking.... (5, Insightful)

obliv!on (1160633) | about 5 years ago | (#29242515)

If they truly wanted to stop multitasking behind the wheel there would be a lot more support for removing the human from the equation. We aren't that far off from cars that can accurately and safely drive themselves. Why aren't we funding efforts like the DARPA road challenge more? Lets get that wrapped up and out there. I mean I think its good that people who end up doing bad things, because of their poor behavior choices are being penalized for those choices, but if safety is truly the goal we'd recognize that in one way or another multitasking occurs for most drivers at some point and the only way to truly get rid of it and the risks they represent is to minimize the human role in controlling the vehicle.

Another dumb law with no way to prove one was (0, Flamebait)

ancient_kings (1000970) | about 5 years ago | (#29242571)

tesing while driving. I can already see the state troopers coming to an accident with one person killed and saying, "Look! She had an iphone in her pocket! I'm going to arrest herfor for murder while texting! HA! I caught me a killer! I'm going to get promoted and buy that extra large dilydo my wife always wanted!" At least in drunk driving the blood test proves one was above the limit (though not drunk, there is big difference). How can you prove one was texting? You can't. Another dumb law to throw more Americans in jail, raise the taxes and make policians look like they are doing something. Well, I least we beat China in having the most percent of the population in prison.

Shew, close one (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 5 years ago | (#29242579)

Man, I'm glad this specifically legislates texting, otherwise it could interfere with my playing Sudoku on my blackberry while driving. Or reading slashdot.org. Or watching YouTube videos. Or reading an ebook. Or any of the million other distracting things I can do on any mobile device that is not texting.

Where is the burden of proof? (3, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | about 5 years ago | (#29242597)

If you get caught DUI then there are "reliable" tests that can determine your blood alcohol content, which is then used determine legal liability.

How do you prove that a person was 'texting, webbing, reading, etc'?

A (busted?) phone that may or may not show an active message screen x minutes after an accident for the police to look at?
Eye-Witness reports? (looking down at radio vs looking down to text)

These lawmakers are chasing smoke. They want to look like they are trying to make a difference but ANY half competent lawyer could likely get those charges thrown out.

Laws already exist that cover crap like this:
Undue care and attention while operating a motor vehicle.
Unsafe operation of a motor vehicle.
Dangerous driving.
Dangerous driving resulting in bodily harm.
Manslaughter.

Most crashes caused by idiot drivers can get 1-3 of those charges applied, do we _really_ need to add more?

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