A rash of recent studies confirm that DWT (driving while texting) is more dangerous than DUI. For that matter, so is driving while talking on a cell phone. See, for example, my previous posts Inebriated or Texting: Which is More Dangerous While Driving? and Feds Crack Down on DUI…and Cover Up DWT.
Presumably, the punishment for DWT reflects the greater danger, right?
Wrong. Think $50 fine. In fact, in most states DWT isn’t even a crime.
Real Penalties Would Deter Cell Use and Texting While Driving
Los Angeles, CA. – There are some 270 million cell phones in the U.S. at the moment (out of a population of some 307 million people). Of those who drive, nearly 50 percent say that it’s dangerous to use cell phones or similar devices while driving. However, 80 percent of drivers told researchers they’ve talked on their cell phone while driving, and nearly one in five said they had read or typed text messages while driving. Perhaps they think it’s only dangerous for the other guy…
Every state has laws – and severe penalties – for driving while drunk, yet only five ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Fourteen states, including California, ban texting while driving, and it’s a miracle that those states have texting laws at all. Cell phone companies, with the exception of Verizon, pay lip service to the dangers of driving while talking and texting, but their lobbyists know which buttons to push when laws are introduced.
Then there is the matter of enforcement and fines, which tend to be lax and symbolic, at best. In California, where the use of hand-held phones and texting have only recently been outlawed, the fine for a first offense is $20; for the second offense it’s $50. Even though court costs can triple those fines, that’s not a deterrent. Not when a driver who runs a red light and gets his picture taken by a red light camera can pay fines of $500 and more and acquire a point on his DMV record. Drivers who text don’t get a point, and most don’t get the point.
So what’s the difference between DUI and DWT? In a word: alcohol. Prohibitionist groups like MADD don’t like alcohol. Add alcohol to the dangerous driving and the punishment jumps from a $50 fine to jail time, license suspensions, $1500 fines, long DUI schools, ignition interlock devices, probation and more. And that doesn’t include attorneys’ fees, increased car insurance for years, and the possible loss of job, professional licensing or security clearances. And then there’s the criminal record….
Ever wonder why MADD constantly touts the traffic fatality figures for DUI — but remains silent on the figures for DWT…and still hasn’t taken a stand against driving while talking or texting?