published Monday, June 29th, 2009

'Catch me if u can'

by Maddie Burke

Gavin Cox is practically daring the police to ticket him for texting while driving.

"How are they going to know if I am texting rather than dialing when I am going 70 down the highway?" asked the 22-year-old from Chattanooga.

His feelings are not unique. Many avid texters say they will continue their messaging behind the wheel, regardless of a new state law that prohibits it.

"I will continue texting," Mr. Cox said. "The law is unenforceable, so no one will obey it."

The law, which goes into effect Wednesday, outlaws the sending or reading of text messages while driving. The law will only penalize drivers who text while the vehicle is in motion and will not penalize drivers who text at stoplights.

The offense will be considered a nonmoving-traffic violation with a $50 fine, and no points will be added to a person's driving record. Workers such as campus police, emergency medical technicians and state officers are exempt while working.

Tennessee is one of 14 states that ban texting while driving, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Public safety advocates say more states will pass similar legislation.

Police officials and older generations see merit in the law and say it's a smart way to keep the roads safer.

"I think it will make a major change," said Lt. Charles Lowery Jr., the Hamilton County traffic and school patrol supervisor. "Texting leads to many more crashes and injuries. When you are driving 4,000 to 8,000 thousand pounds of plastic and metal that could kill someone, your attention should not be divided."

Most opponents of the Tennessee law argue that texting already is covered under the state's distracted driving law and that authorities will not be able to enforce the law adequately, The Associated Press reported.

"It won't put fear into teens or adults who text because they do not think they will get caught," Mr. Cox said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. And, as of May, Tennessee reported the highest national percentage of drivers who admit to texting while driving (42 percent), according to a survey released by mobile application vendor Vlingo.

Across the state line, Georgia lawmakers attempted to pass similar laws but were unsuccessful, according to the Georgia General Assembly's Web site.

A proposal to create additional penalties for drivers distracted by cell phones at the time of an accident did not pass the Georgia House. A measure to prohibit drivers 18 and younger from using cell phones passed the House but will not be heard by the Senate until next year.

No-texting laws are a slippery slope because they could lead to further regulations, such as restrictions on eating or changing radio stations, said Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

Officers, however, remain optimistic about their ability to enforce the new law.

"If they are texting, they aren't seeing us," Lt. Lowery said. "When people text, they normally hold the phone up. If I see a person hitting numerous keys numerous times, it will indicate to me that they are not dialing but texting."

Sgt. Al Tallant, who oversees the Chattanooga Police Department traffic division, said his officers will be looking for indication of careless driving.

"We will look at how people are driving," he said. "You can normally tell when people are distracted."

Sgt. Tallant believes that while the police may not be able to catch all offenders, the new law will lead to a reduction in texting behind the wheel.

"A certain percentage will stop because they know it is against the law," he said.

But even those who understand the dangers and see merit in the new law admit that old habits will be hard to break.

"I probably won't stop," said Cynetria Watkins, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "I guess it's a good law, and I might do it a little less, but I probably won't stop."

Some diehard texters, however, are undeterred.

"There are more dangerous things in the car than texting," said Chrysta Jorgenson, 28, of Hixson. "People playing with the radio, using navigation systems, zoning out or driving tired are just as bad."

It is unclear whether an officer will be able to confiscate or examine a phone to check its history to determine if a text message has been sent.

However, refusal to provide a phone to police will not look good in front of a judge, Lt. Lowery said, comparing the situation to people who refuse Breathalyzer tests during DUI stops.

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acox said...

Is it really uninforceble? So let's run this scenario: Cop suspects that you're texting and notes the time he attempts the traffic stop (Let's say 2:15 pm). He/She pulls you over, asks to see your phone to see if there's a time stamp on the last sent or received text on or around 2:15. Does this fall under the category of "searching the vehicle" (which I understand you don't have to agree to)? Is there any policy/procedure that allows an officer to get that time stamp? Or will it take him writing the ticket and you fighting it in court? What a hassle.

June 29, 2009 at 9:04 a.m.
JHD536 said...

Under the guise of "destruction of evidence" i.e., deleting the messages, an officer might be able to take and search an offending phone without permission or a warrant.

Regardless, most people won't stop until they drive into a tree or kill someone while using their phones.

June 29, 2009 at 3:29 p.m.
Salsa said...

It won't surprise me a bit to learn in a few months or weeks from now that Mr Cox has had a wreck while texting.

June 29, 2009 at 3:38 p.m.
GeeBo said...

Hopefully...This guy Garvin Cox is just whistling dixie as far as not caring about the dangers of texting and driving. If he doesnt watch himself he will wake up and find that his dixie wrecked. Come on Garvin be safe.

June 29, 2009 at 3:43 p.m.
Yaknow said...

Mr. Cox is the poster child of this generations cavalier attitude when it comes to safety in motor vehicles. While everyone has enjoyed all the new technology that has been produced over the last forty years, how many people must die before these kids start paying attention to driving. Many of them, do not go to a drivers ed course or anything. They need to take operating motor vehicles more seriously. Driving is a privilege not a right!

June 29, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.
KeepItGreen said...

All it will take is for a few of these texters causing horrible accidents and the next law passed will be that you can only use cell phones with a "hands-free" device (such as a bluetooth) while driving. Never underestimate the power of our state to make the that they will do what it takes to make our roads safer. I just hope and pray that no one gets killed.

June 29, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.
Jhenry said...

Gavin Cox is a selfish child. People like him are why innocent people get killed on the roads today. I have never understood the obsession with text messaging anyways. If you have a phone and have something to say, especially when driving, why can't you just call the person?

June 29, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.
GeeBo said...

I think everyone should take into account that they do not know Garvin Cox. Im sure he is a decent enough person...albeit with unsafe texting habits. If you are textually active then you should use protection, such as bluetooth devices.

June 29, 2009 at 4:45 p.m.
BiffBoof said...

I tell you what, boy. If I see this Gavin kid on the road, just textin away, I'm liable to ram into him on principle....for the good of mankind. I'm tired of these teeny boppers swervin all over the place, in and out of lanes, almost hittin guard rails, while making one of these texts to their "boo." I reckon that if I give him a "friendly" little bump and get him swervin a little on on-coming traffic, he'll start payin attention! Maybe his dad gum cellular phone will jump out the window and do us all a favor!

June 29, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.
Yaknow said...

It is obvious that this particular individual is not responsible enough to be driving a car. I am saying it right now, someone needs to take this young, whipper-snappers driver license away before he hurts someone. This generation is so irresponsible it makes me want to vomit!

June 29, 2009 at 4:56 p.m.
thatguy said...

What a hassle my $#%&(^& what about all the people who lost loved ones or themselves in accidents involving idiots while texting.

June 29, 2009 at 5:05 p.m.
Abe said...

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle was treated for a concussion after crashing his car into an Austin apartment building last week while he was either sending or receiving a text message, his attorney said Monday.

Kindle’s attorney, Brian Roark, said Kindle lost control of the car on June 24 while looking at the message.

“It was probably something he should not have been doing,” Roark said.

June 29, 2009 at 5:27 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

From the article, ".....Tennessee reported the highest national percentage of drivers who admit to texting while driving (42 percent),..."

Are we really surrounded by idiots?

From a safety standpoint, only a idiot would text while driving. A few tenths of a second of reaction time, can end up being 20 or 50 feet of roadway traversed. The faster you go, the worse it gets.

Car&Driver(August2009) has an article titled, "Unprotected Text". They used a couple of staffers for test(idiots) subjects. It is a funny article until the implications of texting while driving become obvious. The texting reaction times(reading vs. writing, separately)were horrible, even compared to the legally drunk reaction times. Not a true scientific test, but the effect has been shown, repeatedly. Now, what are the penalties for DUI?

Much like DUI, and running redlights/stopsigns, texting while driving is the equivalent of waving a loaded gun around in a populated room and randomly pulling the trigger, someone IS going to get hurt.

I wouldn't care if the idiots all killed themselves off. The problem is, they take normal people with them.

June 29, 2009 at 5:58 p.m.
GeeBo said...

I hope Garven Carx reads all these posts and decides to change his reckless ways. If Im Garven, I tell you what...Im taking a good long look in the mirror. If you have hate in your heart...Let it out! He needs to be shown what real truth is.

June 29, 2009 at 9:15 p.m.
BiffBoof said...

GeeBo is right on. My friend Harold was drivin his Dodge truck, which I keep tellin him can't compete with a my old Chevy, and he was not payin attention going out back. Then he bends over a little to grab his dip cut and is not payin attention. Same as this cell phone business, I tell you. I warned him about 100 times about payin attention while dippin. Well, guess who was comin in the opposite direction? Reckon it was me! Well, I saw his piece of junk Dodge and him ducking down, so I ran him off the road! And let me tell you what, if it werent for that chicken wire, he probably would have flipped over. As it is now, his inferior automobile has a broken axel, yep split right in half. Chicken wire all stuck in his rotary specs. To-wit, it dont matter what you're doin, pay attention!!!

June 29, 2009 at 10:11 p.m.
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