In an effort to prevent America’s drivers from talking or texting on mobile phones while driving, the U.S. Transportation Department is mounting a pilot program in New York and Connecticut. Concurrently, the Fed is also asking car manufacturers to stop putting hands-free communications systems in cars (good luck with that). Hoping to duplicate the success of the seat belt safety program, the new program even has its own slogan, “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other.” Not as snappy as “Click It or Ticket,” but equally capable of jacking up your auto insurance if you’re convicted of DWUCP (driving while using a cell phone).
The cynical among us might see tickets for DWUCP as another money grab by cash-strapped states and municipalities. They could have a legitimate point. Although fines for first offenses tend to be under $100, that can add up quickly when you take into account that there are, according to National Safety Council data, 100 million U.S. drivers using phones while they drive. And, then, of course, there’s the impact of points on your record. Not good if you’re looking for cheap car insurance quotes.
Contrarians argue that there’s no difference between driving with a cell phone in your hand and driving while holding a hamburger or cup of coffee. They have a point, too. A lot of accidents caused by driver distraction are attributed to spilled beverages, which increases the risk of a crash or near crash by a factor of nine, compared to a 1.3 increase for using a hand-held mobile. And given the aforementioned empty government coffers, it probably won’t be long before the revenue-producing potential of outlawing your cup o’ Joe to go catches the attention of hungry legislators. (Don’t say you weren’t warned.)
Right now only a handful of states have specific laws against DWUCP, but almost all states allow tickets to be issued for DWUCP if you’re also stopped for some other ticketable offense while chatting or texting.
Anything that takes your attention off the road while you’re driving is a bad, dangerous idea. Unfortunately, National Safety Council data estimates that 100 million U.S. drivers talk and drive. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (sponsors of the Federal pilot program) claims that DWUCP is to blame for some 342,000 auto accident annually, costing $43 billion in property damage, lost wages, medical bills and lost lives. That’s compelling. But what will probably push most states to ban DWUCP will be the threat to without federal highway funds unless a state has a law on the books. Why wait? If you value your low auto insurance premiums and your life, hang up the phone and drive.
AT&T Wireless Texting & Driving