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PUBLIC WANTS STIFFER PENALTIES FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

Public wants stiffer penalties for texting while driving ... what can you do? (photo illustration by David M. Stack)

Public wants stiffer penalties for texting while driving ... what can you do? (photo illustration by David M. Stack)

ITASCA, Ill. -- New findings from a National Safety Council opinion poll indicate 73 percent of respondents think there should be more enforcement of texting laws, while only 22 percent said the current level of enforcement is fine.

When asked what type of penalties they'd like to see, 52 percent of poll participants chose penalties including a point system that could lead to the loss of a driver's license or increased insurance costs, 51 percent were in favor of different levels of penalties for first vs. repeat offenses, and half thought large monetary fines should be used as a deterrent.

"For years, there has been widespread opposition to texting behind the wheel," said National Safety Council president Deborah Hersman. "Today, the polls show the public is behind stronger penalties ... to stop this dangerous behavior."

Currently, no state has passed a law banning all cell phone use while driving. Forty-four states plus the District of Columbia ban texting for all drivers, and 13 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning handheld driver cell phone use.

Contrary to popular belief, the brain does not truly multi-task. More than 30 studies show hands-free devices are no safer than handheld as the brain remains distracted by the cell phone conversation. NSC estimates 26 percent of all crashes involve cell phone use while driving. Talking on a cell phone, either hands-free or handheld, is estimated to be involved in 21 percent of crashes -- with an additional 5 percent for texting.