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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Any use of cell phone while driving is dangerous

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another issue that legislators are tackling again this year is texting while driving. Currently, it's a secondary traffic offense with a $20 fine for a first offense, but many lawmakers want to make the penalty tougher.

Several bills would change the penalty to reckless driving, a Class 1 misdemeanor that can carry a 12-month prison sentence and $2,500 fine. Other bills would change the offense from secondary to primary, which means a driver could be pulled over just for that offense, although it's difficult for a police officer to observe and know a driver is texting.

Legislators may want to look at statistics, though, when it comes to passing laws related to cell phone use. They may be surprised to learn that talking on a cell phone, not texting, is the main culprit in traffic accidents.

The National Safety Council conducted a study for 2011 and found that at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes -- or at least 1.6 million crashes each year -- involved drivers using cell phones and texting. However, the NSC estimated that 1.4 million of those crashes involved drivers using cell phones (talking or calling) and about 200,000 additional crashes involved drivers who were texting.

The NSC said it's clear texting is more dangerous than just talking on a cell phone, and that the difference in the uses related to accidents is simply one of numbers. That is, far more people talk while driving than text. But that may be changing, especially with youth, who more and more depend on texting.

The bottom line is, using a cell phone in any way while driving is dangerous. Period. Virginia has no laws related to talking on a cell phone while driving, unless the driver is under 18 years old.

It is likely that stricter laws will be passed as accident statistics related to cell phone use rise. Most states are now collecting the accident data related to the issue.

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