Teens into texting while driving


The Arizona teenager knows it’s illegal in Phoenix and dangerous. She once almost drifted into oncoming traffic while looking at her phone. But would a nationwide ban stop Cordova and her friends from texting in their cars? No way, she said. “Nobody is going to listen,” Cordova said.

With momentum building in Washington for all 50 US states to outlaw text massaging behind the wheel, there is evidence that the key demographic targeted by such legislation, teen drivers, will not pay much attention. Some police agencies, while strongly in favour of such mandates, say its tough for officers to enforce them.

The California Highway Patrol has handed out nearly 163,000 tickets to drivers talking on hand-held phones since mid-2008. But it has issued only 1,400 texting citations since January in a state of 23 million drivers — not for lack of trying.  “The handheld phone is easy for to spot, we can see when somebody has their phone up to their ear. But drivers can easily escape when they text ‘below the wheels’” spokeswoman Fran Clader said.

In July, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, citing a study that found texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be in an accident, introduced a bill requiring states to prohibit the practice or risk losing federal highway funds. In October, during a three-day conference in Washington on distracted driving, President Barack Obama signed an executive order barring federal employees from texting behind the wheel. 

But a much-cited study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that usage of cell phones for calls and texting in North Carolina actually ticked up slightly after the state banned them for drivers under the age of 18.

Cordova, a 17-year-old student, says she often texts her boyfriend when she drives and doubts she or her friends would stop because of new legislation.

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