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Letter: Lavine Is Right

Assemblyman Charles Lavine is quite right when he says “The numbers indicate that there are too many tragic accidents that occur as a result of young, inexperienced drivers  texting or talking on their cell phones. 

That is a deadly combination.  These tragedies can be prevented.  The message is clear. Distractions while driving can kill. Cell phone use of any kind is a distraction”.  Which makes him “wrong” to support the extremely inadequate penalties imposed on young (but knowing) violators of these important safety laws that involve matters of life and death. 

Especially given the statistics cited in this article : that 43%  of teen drivers admit they regularly text while driving, and that police  ticketing for texting while driving has increased 234%, and cell phone-related crashes have increased 143%. Yet the only consequence for teenagers who deliberately choose to thumb their nose at this law will be technically  (and fairly meaninglessly) “suspending” their licenses for 60 days---which rarely stops any lawbreaker from continuing to drive! 

And, of course, starting on the 61st day after their previous offense, they are free to resume texting & driving “legally”. The new law also says that if they do it a second time within 6 months their license will  be again suspended---only this time for 6 months---but, again, that will not actually stop them from continuing to drive.  And, if they choose to do it again after  SIX-AND-A-HALF months, the law will almost view it as “okay”. 

Lavine says “the message is clear”, but I think that these namby-pamby, slap-on-the-wrist “punishments” will do nothing to deter teens who are already inclined to text while driving. The only thing that will really get their “attention” (and that of their parents) , and actually  influence their driving behavior are strict consequences  such as impounding the vehicles being driven illegally, fining them $1,000 or more, and/or putting them inside a jail cell for at least 10 days. Only then would we other (law-abiding, careful, life-loving and innocent) drivers have a chance to see some of those scary statistical increases start to decrease.

Richard Siegelman