Texting and driving deserves stricter penalties

Sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 there was a tragic automobile accident on Interstate I-10 between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama. Two young people lost their lives when rear-ended by an 18-wheeler travelling West on Interstate I-10 in the early afternoon. Obviously, the truck driver was at fault for non-attention to traffic flow, or was he?

After a careful investigation it was found the young man driving the automobile was texting at the time of the accident. Not only was he texting while driving on the interstate he was texting the young lady sitting next to him. I travel Interstate I-10 frequently and speeds driven average about 75-80 miles per hour for cars and 70 miles per hour for trucks.

The speed of the young man who was killed was determined to be about 35 to 40 miles per hour and with other traffic speeds this scenario was a recipe for disaster. A truck barrels down the highway at 70 to 75 miles an hour and in front is a car doing about 30 to 40 miles per hour with a driver who is texting and oblivious to his surroundings. It’s a tragedy for three families that never should have happened.

I had a similar incident occur only three weeks ago on this same stretch of road of Interstate I-10. Speeds were as usual on I-10 and I was travelling with the flow of traffic not paying too much attention to the speeds, except when I would get driving instructions from my wife Connie and that was quite often. Suddenly I was aware that I was approaching a car in front quite rapidly.

I tried to move to the passing lane but was blocked by traffic moving at a faster speed. I had to stand on the brakes to keep from rear ending the car in my immediate frontal vision. Luckily, I avoided a real disaster.

When I moved to the other lane to pass I observed the driver of the car with both hands on the top of his steering wheel with his cell phone in hand. He was oblivious to what had almost been an example of two objects trying to occupy the same space. That started me thinking about writing this article.

The truck driver will live with those tragic moments for the rest of his life. The families of the two victims involved are forever burdened with joys of association that could have been. Not that it really matters, but where does the blame fall?

That the truck driver should have been more attentive to the flow of traffic is a given. The slow speed of the young man and texting was a contributor to the situation that led to the deaths of two young people. But there is a third party with culpability.

That third party is whoever is responsible for laws that govern what you can and can’t do when driving an automobile that now has taken on the mantle of a missile. With the high speeds on the interstates, the automobile qualifies as a speeding bullet that will kill or maim just in an instant. Timid laws governing texting when driving are responsible for an unknown number of deaths on the highways of America.

Texting while driving penalties should be among the most stringent of all laws governing the use of automobiles. A slap on the hand for first offenders, billboards that scream “Don’t text while driving”, and ignoring the problem of monumental proportions, will not solve this major problem. The first offense should be a £1,000 fine with a notice that you are on probation for a year.

A second offense will be a suspension of license for one year with a third offense a permanent loss of an operator’s license. Texting while driving should have stringent penalties that parallel driving while intoxicated. Both are deadly!

Texting while driving is becoming more prevalent each year. Unless the responsible authorities make the penalty for texting onerous enough the carnage from texting will continue. Could strenuous penalties have saved the lives of the two people in question?

I think so.

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