Holsclaw measure would require drivers to stay focused on the road

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton wants to see cell phones banned while driving unless the driver is using the phone in hands-free mode. Tennessee already has laws on the books banning texting.
Holsclaw first introduced the bill in the Tennessee House last year, but it didn’t make it through the Senate. This year he hopes things will be different.
Under the current state law, adults can hold their phones and drive at the same time as long as they are not texting or emailing. Holsclaw’s measure, should it become law, would make using a cell phone while driving a “nonmoving traffic violation” which would be punishable by up to a $50 fine.
The Carter County representative is very passionate about the legislation. “People’s lives have been taken because of cell phones,” he said.
In most states, texting while driving is a primary offense. Thirty-seven states prohibit teenagers from using cell phones while driving. Currently, Tennessee does not require hands-free devices for drivers who use cell phones.
Multiple studies show that using smart phones while driving is even more dangerous than drinking and driving. There’s even a new DWI acronym for it — Driving While Intexticated. And texting may be the least of it.
In 2015, as part of the company’s “It Can Wait” campaign, AT&T surveyed 2,000 customers between the ages of 16 and 65 who admitted to using smart phones and driving at least once a day. Though 61 percent said they had texted while the car was moving, another 33 percent said they had emailed. Twenty-eight percent had browsed the Internet, 27 percent had been on Facebook and smaller segments had been on other social media.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies distracted driving in three categories: Visual, taking your eyes off the road; Manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and Cognitive, taking your mind off the driving. According to the CDC, eight deaths and roughly 1,000 injuries occur on American roads each day because of crashes related to distracted driving.
You cannot use your phone and drive safely at the same time, any more than you can drive safely while reading the newspaper or making yourself a sandwich or brushing your child’s hair.
Distracted driving is a problem that encompasses many common behaviors. How are you supposed to control the car and keep your eyes on the road while eating? Yet the millions of restaurant drive-thru stations speak to the ubiquity of dining behind the wheel.
But the use of hand-held devices, especially cell phones and especially for the purpose of texting, is the worst of this class of behaviors, because it is so widespread and so distracting.
Another problem is car navigation systems. Drivers fumble with them. That’s why some systems won’t work if the car is in motion. As with texting, drivers should pull over. While sending an average text, the CDC found, a driver at 55 miles per hour can travel the length of a football field.
Given all the research, why hasn’t Tennessee passed tougher laws? Misplaced political ideology.
Some characterize the ban as an impingement on freedom.
The “freedom” to act irresponsibly behind the wheel, however, affects more than the driver. Higher rates of traffic crashes and fatalities mean higher insurance rates for all drivers.
Continued advances in automobile technology may offer some long-term hope, but until drivers realize the deadly risks of paying more attention to their devices than to the road, we will see more men, women and children killed on our highways as the result of these distractions.
Distraction has become a way of life, especially for young people. As a society, we need to reinforce the message that some activities, like driving, require our full attention.

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