New tech, new era of driver distractions

Woman wearing Google Glass

Lawmakers trying to come to grips with the technology behind distracted driving won't find the going any easier when they get back to work in 2015. Police across the nation already complain that state distracted driving laws are ineffectual in the era of smartphones -- devices that are essentially handheld personal computers. Many state laws were written when cell phone calls were the main concern -- and even text messaging was a relatively new phenomenon. Among the high-tech products distracting drivers -- and challenging lawmakers in 2015: Google Glass: Wearable technology that … [Read more...]

Wash. state panel: Rewrite cell phone laws

Washington flag for text message ban post

The state of Washington was an early leader in distracted driving laws, but a transportation panel says it's fallen behind the times. Washington's Traffic Safety Commission seeks a complete and unambiguous ban on the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Washington state law "doesn't preclude you from looking at Facebook or the Internet as you're driving," said Darrin Grondel, director of the Traffic Safety Commission. The new legislation, expected to be introduced early in the 2015-16 session, would cover smartphone activities such as accessing social media sites and emailing. … [Read more...]

Study: Primary enforcement saves lives

texting & driving california sign

"Primary enforcement" of distracted driving laws leads to lower death rates in states with texting laws, while secondary enforcement does not, according to a new study. Meanwhile, another research team found that California's handheld device failed to lower the number of vehicle crashes in its first six months. The study on primary enforcement should bolster state lawmakers seeking to give police the ability to stop and cite distracted driving offenders. "Very little is known about whether laws banning texting while driving have actually improved roadway safety," said researcher Alva … [Read more...]

Vermont gets handheld cell law

Debbie Drewniak text messaging victim

Gov. Peter Shumlin wasn't entirely convinced, but Debbie Drewniak had no doubts as Vermont's handheld cell phone bill was signed into law. Drewniak, pictured, whose life nearly was ended by a teen who was texting and driving, was awarded the pen that Shumlin used to sign the distracted driving measure into law. It goes into effect Oct. 1, with fines ranging from $200 to $500. "This is an example where a governor listens and changes his mind," Shumlin said at the bill June 12 bill signing. The governor said he heard the voices of those Vermont residents who "desperately wanted this … [Read more...]

In Maryland, Jake’s Law approved

Distracted driving victim Jake Owen of Maryland

Deadly distractions won't be tolerated in Maryland. The state's governor signed "Jake's Law" on April 14, bringing closure of a kind to the family of a 5-year-old who died in a 2011 distracted driving crash. The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, means distracted drivers who kill or seriously injure others through their negligence are faced with a year's incarceration and a $5,000 fine. In addition, 12 points will be assessed vs. the driver's license. The driver who slammed into the family car and killed Jake Owen was fined $1,000, convicted of a pair of traffic offenses. He was using … [Read more...]