New crime: Driving while texting

In AZ, a freshman Rep. says DWT needs to be a crime, although there's no hard evidence that message-crazy texters are taking their conversations behind the wheel.

It's hard to believe that people drive with their Blackberries propped up on the steering wheel and their thumbs clicking away even as they navigate the hazards of the freeway. But it must be so if a legislator feels the need to pass a law against it. Or maybe it's just a case of a freshman lawmaker looking to score points by legislating against a danger that doesn't really exist.

In any case, Arizona state Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, wants to create the crime of DWT, or driving while texting, reports the Arizona Star. He claims there's so much in-car texting going on that the roads are unsafe.

The fines: $50 if you're caught texting, $200 if you're in an accident. It's just as illegal to read a text as to write one.

Naturally, the cellphone companies and internet providers are against it. But they might have a point.

"People ought to be self-sufficient enough that government shouldn't have to tell them how to drive safely," said Susan Bitter Smith, who lobbies for several cellular companies. And she said there is no evidence text messaging is any more distracting than other things that remain legal, ranging from applying mascara to eating a cheeseburger.

Actually, there are no facts that people do DWT - Farley has anecodtes only. But as distractions go, it's a good one. And AAA reports distracted drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers. Presumably, a texting, drunk driver would be a madman on the road.

Farley said he doesn't expect police to go out and actively look for motorists whose thumbs aren't where they're supposed to be. In fact, Farley said his measure is written so that the only time drivers would be cited is if they were in an accident or stopped for some other reason.But Farley said he expects just putting the law on the books will prompt 80 percent of the people who do it to stop.

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