We joked last month that following a California accident in which the driver of a car was killed while, police think, using a laptop while driving, that there would be an onslaught of laws aimed at banning the practice. While that may not have happened (yet), legislators have set their sights on outlawing another electronic distraction: driving while texting. The WSJ says the push for such a law in Washington state began after a traffic accident outside Seattle, when a guy was reading email on his BlackBerry hit another car, starting a five-car crash in which nobody was seriously injured. Of course, as the article notes, negligent operation of a vehicle is already a crime in Washington, and carries a $538 fine. Police there say it can be hard to enforce the law, because after accidents, they have to rely on a driver fessing up that they were texting or were distracted by some other activity. With that in mind, it's hard to see how a new law banning "reading, writing or sending electronic messages" while driving will help the situation at all. If existing reckless or negligent driving laws aren't useful because they're so difficult to enforce, why not seek to improve them, so as to help cut down on all driver distractions? This would seem to be much more productive than singling out individual activities after they supposedly become a problem. BlackBerry- or phone-using drivers aren't the problem; distracted drivers are.
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