New driving restrictions in UA will impact students behind the wheel

by karihighman, ’13

“A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver.”

This startling statistic from the Ad Council’s official website brings to light a topic that is highly relevant to teens today: texting and driving. According to a Reuter’s poll conducted by AT&T in May of 2012, 97 percent of the 1,200 teenagers surveyed said that texting while driving is dangerous. Even so, 43 percent of those same teens admitted to texting behind the wheel within the past three months.

To combat this dangerous activity within the community, UA City Council voted to enact a ban on texting and driving on Oct. 8, 2012. According to UA City Council Vice President Don Leach, the legislation will make texting behind the wheel a serious offense.

“We wanted to have a similar provision in the UA traffic code, which allows us to address the issue in our mayor’s court, rather than downtown in Municipal Court,” Leach said. “While considering the UA version of the legislation, we decided to make the offense a primary one, rather than a secondary one, as the state law provides. That means that in UA a police officer can stop a driver suspected of texting and driving.”

Leach hopes that the primary offense clause of the ban will have more of an impact on drivers.

“That ability makes our law stronger than the state law, which would not allow a stop based on suspected texting and driving [because] under state law a person could only be charged with texting and driving,” he said.

Leach also said that the city hopes to shed light on the subject of using one’s phone while behind the wheel.

“UA [City] Council believed it to be important to emphasize the importance of not texting and driving by making it a primary offense,” he said.

Junior Elise Waltzer believes that while the ban may not be 100 percent effective, it will discourage drivers from texting.

“I think the ban [was put] in place so at the very least it will discourage the idea of texting during driving, and hopefully prevent it from happening,” Waltzer said.

The ban will affect every driver in UA, but, in Waltzer’s opinion, it will especially have an impact on new motorists.

“Since they’re nervous about this now, as new drivers, it will carry on as they continue to drive. Especially [if you’re] a new driver, you wouldn’t want to get pulled over shortly after you get your license,” she said.

The AT&T survey also reported that in addition to preventing teens from texting and driving, this ban will hopefully prevent many other hazardous incidents caused by texting and driving, such as traffic accidents, injuries of pedestrians or motorists and deaths from occurring.

However, Rucker believes that despite the benefits of the ban, teens’ reactions would not be positive when it came to the seizure of their phones by police.

“I feel as if most teens will be fine with being pulled over, but will feel the phone confiscation is one step too far,” Rucker said. “When I first read about the ban, all in all I thought it was pretty fair, but if it ever happened to me, I’m not sure how I would feel about the phone confiscation.”

Instead of taking the phone, Rucker suggests warning first time offenders. “Maybe they could start you off with a warning and if it ever happened again then police would have the right to take the phone,” she said.

Senior Kelly Spangler said that while most teenagers won’t like it, she hopes the ban will keep them safe.

“Just being careful while texting and driving isn’t good enough,” she said. “The only way to stay 100 percent safe is to just not do it – texts aren’t that important. They can wait.”