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Texting ban presents challenges for police

Students feel mixed emotions about a new state law that is aimed to keep roads safer.

The law prohibits the writing, sending or receiving of text messages, and includes surfing the web and e-mailing. Exceptions are made for drivers who are stopped in traffic and have put their vehicle in park or neutral and those who have pulled over first.

The state is following in the footsteps of 16 other states that already have bans, set based on recent studies showing accidents are less likely to happen to undistracted drivers as opposed to those who text and drive.

On campus, University Police Chief Dave Baer said he thinks as a driver, it’s a good law. As an enforcer however, he said he sees more complications.

“There would have to be probable cause to observe that someone is texting. It’s not something where a snap judgment can be made,” he said.

Baer also said he feels the law is more useful when texting can be witnessed and proven prior to an accident, but it’s not always going to be easy to deal with.

Unless the accident has caused medical issues, a driver can refuse an officer’s request to check their device for activity at the time of the accident.

Baer said he understands the challenges that arise with all new laws.

“Interpretation is tricky,” he said. “The application of the law could be refined in the future due to circumstances. The main rationale behind the law had school and construction zones in mind.”

He stressed the importance of being completely undistracted and aware of your surroundings when others’ safety is in your hands, certainly while in school and construction zones.

Baer also said he feels there have been many close calls and accidents causing injuries in the past that have been enough reason to prompt such a law.

Students on campus said they can relate to the dangers of the activity.

“I don’t usually text and drive anyway,” freshman health science major Sadie Salsman said. “I usually have to look down when I’m texting, and that’s just not a good idea when I’m trying to drive.”

Junior secondary education major Lindsey DeSmith also said she has no issues with the law, keeping her own safety and that of other drivers in mind.

“I come from a rural area, where the speed limit is 55, when you look down for a few seconds, you’ve traveled so far,” she said. “I won’t take the chance.”

Other students whether they are guilty of the habit or not, said they see problems with the law.

Sophomore psychology major Lane Baird said he agrees texting while driving is dangerous, but doesn’t see how a law should be able to control how people use their personal property.

“You should have the freedom to do what you want while you drive,” he said. “But no, I don’t do it, and it’s not safe.”

Other problems students have don’t necessarily arise with how dangerous the distraction may be, but how the law can be successfully implemented.

“I’ve texted while driving before, and I will probably continue,” said criminal justice and sociology major senior Zachary Flynn. “I don’t see the law as easy to enforce.”