What the Penalty for Texting While Driving SHOULD Be [Opinion]
For those who like the straight-to-the-point approach: Take away their phones, not just their money.
As you may know, Montana is one of only two states without a statewide ban on texting; Arizona is the other. I think that will likely change in the near future, but then what? How effective are $50 or $100 fines?
The topic of texting while driving is turning into one of those subjects that a lot of people are just sick of hearing about. The sad thing is that the situation is not improving. In fact, statistics show that the number of people who text while driving and the accidents this habit causes is still rising.
So, what do we do about it? There are some states that are making extra efforts to catch texting drivers. Some troopers in Tennessee have begun riding in tractor trailers so they can get a birds-eye view of drivers in the other lane. When they see a driver who is texting, they radio ahead to a traditional patrol car so the driver can be pulled over and ticketed. I applaud this effort, but I wonder how much of a deterrent a fine is. Personally, I think there is another scenario that would be more effective. Take their phone away.
To be realistic, it might not be possible to leave someone without a phone in the times we live in. There are concerns with safety, and potentially work, that would probably prevent such legislation. However, restricting someone's phone is very possible. Simply require the major carriers to stop incoming and outgoing text and data to a particular number when legally ordered to do so. No texts, no Facebook, no YouTube, etc.
I know that some will object, saying that it is too easy to get another phone. Someone could circumvent the whole thing by going to a big box store and buying a pay-as-you-go phone. I would agree that is a possibility. I also agree that there are many with a suspended license who drive anyway, but they face severe consequences if caught. In the case of teen drivers, parents should be able to have their son or daughter comply with the law. In fact, even if such a law never passes, parents could easily make this punishment a reality in their own homes.
In short, hit 'em where it hurts, which isn't necessarily their wallet.
Even though there are no statewide bans on cell phone usage or texting, many cities in Montana do have such restrictions, according to DMV.org:
- Billings: Prohibits texting and the use of handheld phones
- Helena: Prohibits the use of handheld phones (this also applies to bicyclists)
- Missoula: Prohibits texting (this also applies to bicyclists)
- Whitefish: Prohibits texting and the use of handheld phones
- Hamilton: Prohibits handheld devices
- Bozeman: Prohibits texting and hand held phones
- Great Falls: Prohibits texting and hand held phones
- Columbia Falls: Prohibits texting and hand held phones
- Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge: County wide bans on the use of handheld phones