New law bans text messaging while driving

Minnesota drivers will have to keep their hands and thumbs on the wheel, and their eyes on the road Aug.1 when the no-texting-while-driving law goes into effect.

Kim Melchert

Minnesota drivers will have to keep their hands and thumbs on the wheel, and their eyes on the road Aug.1 when the no-texting-while-driving law goes into effect.

However, drivers must violate some other traffic law in order to be penalized. Texting and driving qualifies as a petty misdemeanor.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL- Minneapolis , who authored the bill, said texting is a major distraction and more people are beginning to text while they drive, especially a high percentage of teens and young drivers.

“There’s all kinds of distractions that are dangerous,” he said. “But I think that when one actually takes their eye off the road for more than a few seconds at a time that is especially dangerous.”

Hornstein said the texting law is important in improving traffic safety in Minnesota, along with things such as decreasing other driving distractions and enforcing seat belt use.

“All of these things in tandem make our roads safer and cut down on deaths and injuries, which is our goal,” he said.

Currently, six states have jurisdiction-wide bans on driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone, which includes text messaging, according to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. Overall, 18 other states have a texting ban, which in some cases is specific to all drivers, school bus drivers, drivers under 18, or for drivers with a learner’s permit.

Many states that have passed such laws have done so because studies have shown an increase in crash risk when a driver uses a hand-held cell phone.

University law professor Steve Simon said he feels the new law is advantageous for drivers but he said it will be difficult to enforce specifically due to the ratio of drivers to traffic enforcement officers.

“I think probably most young drivers will ignore the law,” he said. “It is going to be very difficult to enforce, because, as I understand it, kids can text without looking at the screen.”

Still, Simon said that it would be a useful tool for parents to ensure that young drivers would not text and drive.

“It is a tool; it is statement of behavioral expectation which, again, kids will know,” he said, “When we make something a law that is kind of the highest expectation of behavior.”

Biology junior Mike Thorp said while he thinks the law is a good idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he or other drivers will follow it. He does not think he will text less even with the new law in place.

“I think it is a good idea, I don’t know anyone who has gotten in an accident directly from texting and driving,” he said, “I’m sure there are plenty of people who have.”

But Hornstein remains confident the texting law will be a success.

“A number of people will not do it just because it is law,” he said. “We know that this will cut down on the bad behavior that exists here.”