Nov/Dec 2009 Issue

National opposition to texting behind the wheel grows as more states adopt bans

Arkansas joined a growing number of states to ban texting behind the wheel this fall as part of a movement that is gaining momentum nationwide because of the deadly risks associated with the practice.

Rep. Ray Kidd, D-Jonesboro, introduced the law because one of his constituents, Paul Davidson, was killed in a collision with a driver who police say was texting behind the wheel. While Kidd acknowledged the measure, which is known as Paul’s Law, might be difficult to enforce, he said the law does raise awareness of the issue and is a necessary step to help prevent distracted driving.

“It’s a national problem that we’ve been ignoring for too long,” Kidd said. “Texting while driving is like drunk driving.”

When Arkansas’s texting ban for all drivers took effect on Oct. 1, it joined similar laws in 17 other states, including Louisiana, which adopted its outright ban last year. Ten other states ban texting for novice drivers, including Mississippi, where its texting law took effect earlier this year.

Such bans will continue with AAA’s launching this fall of a nationwide campaign to pass texting while driving bans in all 50 states by 2013. AAA will lobby to pass laws in states that lack them and improve existing laws against texting while driving.

“Research has proved that texting behind the wheel is a real risk to all road users, and an overwhelming majority of the public supports the enactment of a ban,” said Mike Right, vice president of AAA’s Public Affairs department.

The need for the bans is evident in a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which indicated tasks that draw the driver’s eyes away from the road cause the highest risk.

In the study, the institute outfitted the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras and found the crash risk of dialing a cell phone was almost six times as high as for non-distracted driving, and the risk of using or reaching for an electronic device was nearly seven times as high as when the drivers kept their hands on the wheel. Text messaging, however, far surpassed other distractions with a collision risk 23 times greater than when not texting.

Other research has found that texting bans for motorists can be effective. Before California enacted its ban last January, Automobile Club of Southern California researchers observed 1.4 percent of drivers at any point in time in Orange County were texting while driving. Following the law taking effect, just .4 percent of drivers were seen texting, a decline of about 70 percent overall.

Older Driver

Few seniors aware of effects of medications on driving

While prescription medications are vital to maintaining health for many seniors, most older drivers are unaware of the impact of their medications on their performance behind the wheel, according to a new AAA study.

In the study, performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 95 percent of respondents 55 and older said they have one or more medical conditions and 78 percent said they use one or more medications. Yet only 28 percent indicated some awareness of the potential effect on their driving associated with those medications.

Surprisingly, the study found that few respondents (18 percent) had received a warning about potentially driver-impairing medications–such as ACE inhibitors, sedatives and beta blockers–from a healthcare professional. Some side effects of beta blockers, for instance, can include dizziness and confusion.

Further, the study found that warnings about the effects of medications on driving from health care professionals do not increase with increasing numbers of medications or with increasing numbers of medical conditions.

The lack of warnings is particularly alarming because previous research indicates that use of a single potentially driver-impairing medication increases the risk of being in a crash.

The age range in the study was from 56 to 93, and the level of awareness of potentially driver-impairing medications decreased with age. In contrast, the number of prescription medications people were taking increased with age. Of those surveyed, 69 percent use one or more prescription medications that could impair driving, and 10 percent use five or more.

The number of drivers 55 and older is expected to rise by more than half by 2030, so the urgency of the issue will continue to increase.

medications

In the study, only 28 percent of senior drivers knew of the possible effects of their medications on driving



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