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Utah Law Punishes Texters As Much As Drunks In Driving Fatalities 620

Posted by Soulskill
from the g2g-ran-ovr-sum-guy dept.
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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Utah Law Punishes Texters As Much As Drunks In Driving Fatalities

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  • by Mononoke (88668) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:18AM (#29242017) Homepage Journal
    This appears to be the correct legislative response, for once.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.
      • by Kagura (843695)
        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.
        • by eiapoce (1049910) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:28AM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

            by LoudMusic (199347)

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

            That is roughtly 30 times too much.

            Give or take 0.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sadler121 (735320)

            It doesn't matter how many times he does it, if he can avoid getting into an "accident" then he should be allowed to do it. Once he gets into an "accident", then that is when laws like Utah's are good. 15 year prison term for causing someone's death is probably not enough. They should have restricted driving privileges after they get out, for at least the next 10 years.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by sulfur (1008327)

              It doesn't matter how many times he does it, if he can avoid getting into an "accident" then he should be allowed to do it.

              I wonder if the same logic should be applied to drunk driving (with relatively low BAC). I am sure that some people after having a couple of beers drive extra carefully, not exceed the speed limit even by 1 mph, etc to avoid being caught. Arguably under these conditions they are driving safer than while they are sober.

              • by schweini (607711) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:43PM (#29246815)
                Actually in Germany we (used to?) have a similar law: it is legal to drive with relatively low BAC, and if you get stopped by a routine control operation, that's fine. But if you get stopped because your were driving in a way that might seem "adventurous" (stuff lke running a yellow light, speeding, weird manouvers) with the same low BAC level, you'd get fined.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:40AM (#29242751)

          And if your every unlucky enough to kill someone I hope you spend 15 years in prison thinking about what a fool that you are.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:54AM (#29242925)
          Just give up on life please? You can't possibly try to rationalize how you are allowing yourself to multitask right into a dangerous hole that can not only stand to kill YOU, but stands to kill innocent people who had no hand or choice in, or have the ability to change the outcome of you using the fucking iPhone when you drive around, you stupid pig. I sincerely hope anybody like you who tries to justify how 'texting while driving is not ok' but 'you still do it 30 times in the last 6 months of driving' die the next time you go to do it just because it'd serve your stupidity right. Seriously, piss off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rolfwind (528248)

          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 b

        • by arb phd slp (1144717) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:08PM (#29243659) Homepage Journal

          I've done it once in my entire life and it scared the living shit out of me. Never again.

        • by sjames (1099) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:27PM (#29244483) Homepage

          There is no TRY. Just pull over if it's that important. If not, wait till you get home.

          If the traffic is that light, it shouldn't be all that hard to pull over, now should it?

      • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:59AM (#29242965) Homepage

        15-years seems pretty excessive for involuntary manslaughter. Also, I find the phrase "[getting] what they deserve" quite objectionable. It has a connotation of meting out justice. But putting some dumb kid (or dumb adult) in jail for a decade and a half does not bring back the dead, nor does it somehow compensate for the loss of a life. Too often are the concepts of vengeance and justice conflated in our society; desiring one of them is a vice & common human failing, desiring the other is a virtuous ideal.

        The role of the justice system should be to protect society above all else. It makes much more sense IMO to punish texting-related accidents equally whether they result in a fatality or not, as the difference between a car accident that kills someone and one that simply takes out a fire hydrant is often pure luck. If you don't think a 16-year-old driver who causes a non-lethal accident deserves to rot away in jail for almost the same number of years he's been alive, then it doesn't make sense to punish another 16-year-old driver who made the exact same mistake, but was simply not as lucky.

        It sends a stronger message to drivers if they know they face a 2~5 year jail sentence if they get in an accident while texting (and perhaps a 6 month sentence if they're just caught texting behind the wheel) than to punish texting drivers only when they cause a fatality (no one ever thinks they're going to end up killing someone by their negligence).

        • by pem (1013437) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:24AM (#29243223)
          We have ceded to the government the right to mete out both justice and vengeance.

          As part of this bargain (which is intended to stop vigilante committees, among other things), the government is required to mete out enough vengeance to keep the populace happy.

          As a disinterested third party observer, it may be easy enough for you to say that a texter (or a drunk, for that matter) should be punished for the action and not the result, but that completely ignores other real-world issues.

          The family of the victim is often out for revenge, and as part of the bargain, it is up to the state to provide it. Maybe not to the same extent as if the perpetrator were simply handed over to the family, but something more than a slap on the wrist.

          So this conflation of vengeance and justice is not accidental, not wrong, and should not be changed, at least until a huge majority of the populace would be just fine with someone who killed their kid getting off with a very light sentence. Otherwise, those victims who feel that their justice was denied will realize that the bargain has been broken, the state has failed them, and will feel justified in taking matters into their own hands.

          • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:16PM (#29243733) Homepage

            If the main purpose of the justice system really is to carry out vengeance, then why not just leave it to vigilante committees? After all, mob justice is usually fairly swift and costs very little resources; our existing justice system is quite expensive and monolithic in comparison. And, in a way, mob justice/vigilantism is a very democratic means of establishing order in a society. The community as a whole decides what they will and will not tolerate in their community, and what kind of punishment to dispense.

            Also, you claim that a justice system which considers motives rather than results ignores the real-world issues, but then you turn around and support feel-good legislation which focuses on punishment rather legislation that is geared towards obtaining real-world results. I absolutely agree that the results of a crime should be considered. I just don't agree with sentencing based on chance consequences. And dealing with the results of a crime poorly (in the wrong manner) is no better than not dealing with them at all. The job of repairing the damage done by a crime should not be given to prosecutors—their job is to convict criminals of their crimes and protect society from further harm by such criminals. The way this is typically done is by putting criminals in jail where they cannot harm the rest of society, and the length of time they're removed from society for is determined by the nature of the crime/criminal (i.e. how dangerous they are). A reckless texter who gets in an accident, but happens to have not killed anyone this time, is just as dangerous as a texter who gets in an accident but isn't so lucky. So it makes no sense to lock one up but not the other.

            I think the justice system should have more ways to deal with the consequences of a crime than just heavier or lighter sentencing. Reparations would be a start, as that would actually address the real-world consequences of a crime. If the financial provider of a family is killed, then the justice system should see to it that the family continues to be provided for in his absence. If the money cannot be obtained from the criminal, then the justice system should have the resources to provide it some other way. If a murder victim's spouse is emotionally scarred from the crime, she should have counseling/therapy and other support resources provided to her. This would actually allow the family of victims to seek closure in a more healthy way.

            There is some headway already being made to move the justice system in this direction—either through reforms, the creation of victim outreach programs, victim restitution funds, and other programs that allow victims to confront the criminals that hurt them to facilitate the process of healing. Perhaps the concept of restorative justice is still ahead of its time, but we're making progress. Even today there are family members of murder victims who choose not to pursue the death penalty or are otherwise looking past vengeance. I think that's a sign that our society is evolving culturally and ethically.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by pem (1013437)
              "If the main purpose of the justice system really is to carry out vengeance,"

              I think you're missing some subtlety here. For one thing, I never argued that was the main purpose, just one of the legitimate purposes, and that it will remain a legitimate purpose until humanity evolves a bit.

              "After all, mob justice is usually fairly swift and costs very little resources; our existing justice system is quite expensive and monolithic in comparison."

              I couldn't disagree with this more. The human and societal

    • by phoenixwade (997892) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:25AM (#29242065)

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

      • by solevita (967690) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:36AM (#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.
        • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lysergic.acid (845423)

          Isn't the point of saying "merely" to emphasize how lenient current legislation is—rather than to present the new law as overly severe?

          My problem with this is that it could turn an otherwise law-abiding (albeit dumb) teenager into a career criminal. Spending 15-years behind bars (a rather unhealthy environment for an emotionally/mentally-developing teenager) when you should really be in school and learning to be a productive adult can have rather deleterious consequences. I know we call them correctio

    • by erroneus (253617)

      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 tak

      • by MooUK (905450) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:23PM (#29243847)

        Today, whilst driving to an appointment to view a flat, just after I'd left home, I received a phone call. Naturally, I didn't answer it. I never do.

        Fifteen minutes later, after parking at my destination, I listened to my voicemail and discovered it had been the letting agent calling to cancel the appointment. Had I answered the phone, I'd have saved half an hour of my time (round trip) along with applicable fuel.

        So, do I answer next time, despite driving?

        Hell no. I'll park at the next appropriate opportunity if I feel it's important - otherwise, they can wait.

    • by moon3 (1530265)
      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.
  • Actual risk? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:22AM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:30AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SuperDre (982372)
      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 hav
    • Re:Actual risk? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:42AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mokus000 (1491841)

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Uksi (68751)

      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).

    • by mmalove (919245)

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Is driving drunk acceptable then if accident rates go down?
  • Fine by me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRon6 (929989) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:22AM (#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.

  • Good news. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hattig (47930) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:24AM (#29242055) Journal

    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.

  • by solios (53048) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:25AM (#29242067) Homepage

    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!

  • This will work... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:27AM (#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... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MetalPhalanx (1044938) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:15AM (#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.

  • ROFLMAO (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by AlpineR (32307)

    best dept name evar
    thx /.

  • by DragonPup (302885) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:34AM (#29242147)

    I agree with Utah.

    Wow, that felt dirty.

  • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by east coast (590680)
      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 weeke
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MetalPhalanx (1044938)

      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 c

  • by neowolf (173735) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:40AM (#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.
  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:43AM (#29242227) Journal
    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.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:06AM (#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.

  • Sensible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:44AM (#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.

  • by pigwiggle (882643) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:53AM (#29242295) Homepage

    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.

    • by Al Dimond (792444) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:07AM (#29242407) Journal

      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.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:54AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Odinlake (1057938)

      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 ca

  • by JoshDM (741866) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:04AM (#29242381) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 15 years isn't enough. If it resulted in a fatality, the texting driver should get life (and so should a drunk driver).

  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 ce

  • 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.

  • by obliv!on (1160633) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#29242515) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:27AM (#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?

    • by fantomas (94850) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:48PM (#29244677)

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

      I'm not sure how it works in the USA but here in the UK phone providers hold logs of calls - I guess you must have the same or how else does the phone provider bill you for your phone calls at the end of the month? So if an accident happens and there's any suspicion that use of a phone was involved, the police can ask for the phone records. They check the logs.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:54AM (#29242921)

    A couple times a month I see some idiot clearly not paying attention on the road and making dangerous decisions. The only clear pattern I've ever observed is that 9 times out of 10 it's someone on a cell-phone. Just yesterday some moron in a mini-van came close to merging right into me, and sure enough there was a cell phone next to his head. I've never noticed a pattern in car, gender, race, or bumper-stickers... but the person holding a cell phone up to their ear is a very clear pattern. I've never seen someone texting, so I have to believe it's rather rare.

    Unfortunately there's still no law in Minnesota against using a cell phone while driving. For some reason there's a ban on kids using a cell phone while driving, but apparently when you get older you gain a magical ability to drive and hold your cell phone at the same time. I believe most states are the same way.

    So if you ask me the big problem is just plain old cell phone use, not texting. Texting while driving is idiotic and should be illegal, but concentrating on it and increasing penalties to ridiculous 15 year jail terms while ignoring the obvious problem of people using cell phones while driving is equally foolish. According to http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html [ghsa.org] Cell phone usage while driving is not illegal in Utah.

  • by ncmathsadist (842396) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:06AM (#29243049) Homepage

    I am glad to see someone is cracking down on this foolishness. Whenever I drive, I see people in their cars paying attention to anything BUT the road. Inattentive drivers don't go promptly when the light is green, and create traffic backups. They go 45mph on the fast lane of interstates.

    Driving is dangerous. It demands ALL of your attention. Texting and phoning while driving is risks everyone's lives. You don't ever want to see me on a civil jury in a "texting while driving" case. Insurers, quake now. Texters and yakkers, up your liability limits and buy an umbrella policy.

    These malefactors endanger everyone for a little convenience and entertainment while driving. How typically thoughtless.

  • Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeyblades (785896) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:28AM (#29243261)

    Previously, the Mythbusters (and other scientific studies) has shown that talking on a cell phone while driving is worse than driving while legally drunk. Texting is far more distracting than talking on a cell phone, so this legislation seems more than appropriate.

    What could possibly be so vitally important that it has to be texted right now, yet not so important that you can't pull over to do it?

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:58AM (#29243557)

    The drunk's judgment is impaired when the drunk gets behind the wheel. The texter makes an intentional, volitional, free decision to put other people at risk by texting while driving.

    Stupid bastards forget that their cars are killing machines unless properly handled.

  • victimless crime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by howlingmadhowie (943150) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:56PM (#29244165)
    i don't get it. if i write a text and don't kill anybody or drive drunk and don't kill anybody, society may see fit to revoke privileges (for example my driving license) but it shouldn't be able to throw me in prison or fine me because i haven't actually caused anybody any harm.

    if however i do hit someone and hurt them, then the law can punish me for it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shados (741919)

      If I shoot a gun in the general direction of a group of people, being careful to avoid hitting any of them (ignoring the small risk of someone running in the gun's path), and don't hit anybody, is it ok?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        this one's pretty easy to answer and i thought about it when i wrote my first post. 2 points:
        if you don't hit anybody and nobody notices you're shooting in their direction, i can see the case for revoking your gun license
        if you don't hit anybody but people notice and are scared then you have caused them to be scared and that's worse.

        can you think of another example? at the moment i can't see much wrong with the basic idea i posited above.

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