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Proposed Texting Ban Aimed at Reducing Car Accidents

Legislation proposing an expansion of the Louisiana's ban on texting while driving passed the House last week and was sent back to the Senate for approval. While it is already illegal to send text messages while driving in Louisiana, the new law would make texting a primary offense, in effect allowing police officers to stop drivers for texting alone, without further justification.

The current law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, which means that law enforcement can only cite individuals if they have pulled them over for some other offense, such as speeding, reckless driving, broken taillights and so on.

The justification for both the current law and the proposed new law is the desire to prevent motor vehicle or car accidents. According to 2008 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 people were killed nationwide due to distracted driving. Earlier this month, the Louisiana State University Highway Safety Research Group claimed cell phones were involved in 16 fatal crashes in Louisiana last year. Other studies have indicated that as many as half of 18-24-year-olds text while they drive.

Under the new law, Senate Bill 9, officers could pull over anyone they suspect to be texting while driving. In addition, they would also be able to stop any driver under the age of 17 whom they see using a hand held device such as a phone or gaming device.

Critics of the proposed law say this development gives law enforcement too much authority to stop drivers and may result in unnecessary stops. Proponents, however, argue that the prevention of car accidents is a sufficient reason for the change because the current law has not alleviated the problem.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will go to Governor Jindal who can sign it, let it become law without signing it, or veto it. If the bill becomes law, it would take effect August 15th.

At this time, 18 states have laws similar to the proposed new law regarding texting and driving.

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