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S.280 passed by the Vermont House and Senate was signed into law by the Governor today. The law prohibits texting while driving on highways in Vermont and imposes a penalty of $100 and two points for the first offense and $250 and five points for a second or subsequent offense within a two year period.

Drivers under 18 who hold a junior operator’s license are specifically prohibited from using cell phones and other portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle in Vermont.

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Photo courtesy: Motor Trend

 

 

So far, 23 states have banned texting while driving. New York State became the latest state to do so when its ban went into effect on Sunday, November 1st. There are three more states in which the ban against texting while driving will become effective on January 1st, 2010. Vermont unfortunately is not one of them. Presently, Vermont has a bill pending which would preclude use of cell phones at all while driving a motor vehicle. As presently written, this bill if it becomes law, would preclude anyone (regardless of age) from using a cell phone for any purpose (other than 911 calls) while operating a vehicle on any roadway in the state. The bill is absent an exception or provision for hands-free use, making one wonder if driving a car in Vermont will mean put that cell phone away completely. To see where your state fits into the mix, click on this NPR link to go their interactive state map.

Research shows that 93% of drivers favor a ban on texting. See Motor Trend article here. Where do you stand? Where would you stand if you were completely precluded from using your phone as a result?

Here is a public service announcement for texting while driving. Be warned, it is rather graphic, but really hits home.

I remember it well from when we lived in New Jersey. A trip on any major highway whether traffic was stopped or not would most likely reveal some driver, totally not paying attention to driving. I have seen drivers putting on makeup while driving (seems dangerous to me), talking on cell phones, texting on phones, even reading the newspaper (I kid you not, the paper splayed out over the steering wheel as they do 70 on the Garden State Parkway). Most states have required hands-free use of phones while driving to try to make it somewhat safer to be on the road with these people. The state of Utah has recently passed a law making it the strictest law in the country for texting while driving. Drivers who are texting and cause a fatal collision can be face felony charges and jail time up to 15 years. The state has likened texting or talking while driving to driving while intoxicated -reasoning that drivers who are distracted by texting or talking while driving are just as unfit to operate a vehicle as drivers who have had too much to drink. Texting have been found to be even more dangerous since the driver is more distracted and engaged than with just talking on the cell phone.

From a legal perspective, the difficulty in enforcing the law lies in the ability of the prosecutors to prove their case. Unlike drunk driving where there are objective testing in the form of a breathalyzer, there are no such instruments available in texting while driving cases. The prosecutors or law enforcement officials are forced to subpoena phone records and logs to demonstrate that the driver was texting immediately prior to the collision. The law in Utah presumes that all drivers are aware of the inherent risk of texting while operating a motor vehicle, akin to the presumption in most states regarding the consumption of alcohol and the operation of a vehicle. With this presumption in place, the evidence in the form of phone records provide the proof necessary for enforcement.

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