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Text This: Polk Bans It

Tombstone texting

Polk County this week became the first county in Florida to ban government employees from texting while driving. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already ban texting regardless who’s at the wheel (see a chart here). The Obama administration is about to issue a ban that will apply to truck drivers (federal regulation can be so applied to truck drivers who cross state lines). It’s already issued an executive order banning all federal employees from texting while driving.

In Polk County (one of the state’s largest in land area), the ban “was included in some changes in the county's employee manual that the County Commission approved as part of Wednesday's consent agenda, a long list of routine items approved by a single vote,” writes The Ledger.

Enforcement is the issue. It’s never clear how texting while driving will be detected. Drivers, their hands below the dash line, can be fiddling with anything from ipods to phones (how do you tell the difference from a driver dialing numbers on a cell phone, still legal in Florida, from one texting his mistress?) to zippers.

First Reads: Oct. 8

A texting ban makes senese at first blush. But isolated from a ban on fiddling with other devices, it may be more dangerous, in the snese that drivers will be compelled to hide their texting compulsions by keeping their devices out of view while doing it, which means lengthening the distance between the eye and the device—and lengthening the time it takes for the eye to register what’s on the device. That’s the source of most text-related crashes: the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road.

In Florida, talking on a cell phone, playing an ipod, putting on make-up, verbally blogging into a tape recorder, playing with a GPS device (which can be a distraction as lethal as texting) or programming the back-seat DVD is all legal. Banning texting, on its own, won’t make much of a difference.

 
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