When the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly approved a bill banning texting while driving and cellphone use for drivers younger than 18, there was widespread public support for both restrictions.
The reasons are obvious. Even many of those foolish enough to send text messages while speeding down the highway will agree it is dangerous to do so. They just think the message they are sending is so important it is worth the risk of either being seriously injured or killed in an accident or being cited and fined for texting while driving.
And while there are many who believe talking on a cellphone while driving is dangerously foolish, regardless of one’s age, just banning inexperienced teenaged drivers from talking on the phone while driving is all a majority of the members of the Kentucky General Assembly were willing to support.
Now, more than two years after the restrictions were put in place, they have both proven to be extremely difficult to enforce. In fact, police officers have issued fewer than 1,000 citations for texting while driving and for driving while talking on a cellphone and being younger than 18.
Police say it’s difficult to tell whether someone is texting or doing something else, such as looking at a digital map. They also say discerning a 17-year-old from an 18-year-old is nearly impossible, making it tough to enforce the law banning cellphone use by younger drivers.
Other states also are having difficulty enforcing their texting-while-driving bans. Increasingly, states are banning all hand-held communication devices while driving, which police say is easier to enforce. Will Kentucky legislators agree to go that far? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, even though the current bans on texting while driving and having drivers younger than 18 from using cellphones are not being vigorously enforced, we still support both restrictions. It should not even take a law for thinking people to realize texting while driving is dangerous, as is any use of cellphones while driving regardless of one’s age. All that should be required is a bit of common sense.
But if the relatively minor restrictions on cellphone use while driving prevent even a handful of accidents by forcing all drivers to pay more attention to the road, then they are worthwhile. You can’t judge the effectiveness of the 2011 law by the number of citations written.