SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 10, 2013

Our view: Tough enforcement needed against texters and other erratic drivers

(Continued)

Nationally, 24 percent of all crashes are reported to be related to the use of handheld devices of one kind or another, while distracted driving, including texting while driving, is blamed for 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries annually.

Research using driving simulators by Donald Fisher of the University of Massachusetts Amherst backs up police observations about the threat posed by texting behind the wheel. He found drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident while texting — compared to only three or four times more likely for drivers who are legally drunk.

Massachusetts’ law on texting while driving applies to drivers of all ages, as does New Hampshire’s. The fine for first offenses in both states is $100. Massachusetts drivers under 18 are also forbidden to use a handheld cellphone while driving.

In the past, we have opposed blanket bans on use of cellphones while driving. But we have long supported vigorous enforcement against those who drive erratically, whether they are texting, shaving, applying makeup or engaging in any of the other unsafe activities police say they have observed on the roads.

Such behavior is a threat not only to such drivers but also to drivers who obey the rules out of concern for those who share the road with them as well as their own well-being.

The special saturation patrols targeting drivers who text will be conducted for periods of two to four weeks at a time. They will start with the June 10 through 29 campaign of Essex County-based State Police Troop A.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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