OMG! Mississippi fails to pass texting while driving ban

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

For once, the Mississippi Legislature probably should’ve hit the gas rather than apply the brakes.

UNSAFE OMG: Government statistics prove the dangers of texting while driving. But Mississippi failed this legislative session to get a statewide ban passed.

The Legislature killed a bill before the session ended last week that would’ve banned texting while driving in the state. It’s not the first time a similar bill has died before reaching the governor’s desk.

Reaction, especially from the opinion pages of the state’s newspapers, has been extremely negative. See here and here.

But if you ask the National Motorists Association, a grassroots organization that advocates for driver rights, the law is unneeded because distracted driving laws are on the books in every state, including Mississippi.

“Every state has some kind of law already on the books that addresses distracted driving due to texting,” said John Bowman, communications director of the NMA. “These laws may not specifically reference ‘distracted driving’ in the law. Rather, they may address ‘careless driving,’ ‘inattentive driving’ or ‘negligent driving.’ But the intent is the same — to allow police to take action against a driver who is driving in a demonstrated unsafe manner no matter the specific cause.”

Mississippi is one of seven states without a ban on texting while driving for all drivers. Texting while driving is banned for learner permit holders and school bus drivers.

The statistics against driving while texting are staggering. According to Distraction.gov, distracted driving — which includes any activity behind the wheel that takes a driver’s attention away from the road — accounted for 3,328 deaths and an estimated 421,000 injured in 2012.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation released a visual depiction of the consequences of texting while driving last week.

The magazine Car and Driver performed an experiment in 2009 with its staffers in a controlled environment that found the reaction times of texting drivers slowed remarkably.

It will be January 2015 before the measure will get another chance at a vote by the Legislature.

Bowman said this approach focuses on only one part of the problem, while ignoring other components of the bigger problem of distracted driving.

“Focusing so much attention on one potential cause of distraction — texting — draws attention away from many others and may ultimately be counterproductive. ”

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@watchdog.org
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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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