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Pioneer Editorial: Texting and driving not a good mix

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Government should not have to legislate common sense, but it unfortunately becomes necessary when public safety is involved. Safe drivers need to be attentive and not distractive, so it makes no sense why drivers would send text messages on their cell phones while driving.

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At the National Distracted Drivers Summit held Wednesday in Washington, D.C., it was revealed that 6,000 people were killed last year as a result of distracted driving and 515,000 injured. While texting isn't the sole cause, it's a major contributor.

The summit, hosted by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, noted that sending text messages on cell phones has grown from 10 billion in 2005 to 110 billion last year.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., a former county attorney, spoke at the summit. She is a cosponsor of legislation which calls for a federal texting while driving ban.

"Not too long ago, most people viewed drunk driving as just a traffic offense -- not really a crime. As a prosecutor, I joined with law enforcement officials and safe driving advocates to change the law to make our roads safer We need to do the same for texting and distracted driving." says Klobuchar. "When the rubber meets the road, the BlackBerry should be put away- no text message is worth dying for."

Klobuchar is cosponsoring the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act (ALERT Drivers Act). It would require states to pass laws that ban the writing, reading and sending of text or e-mail messages while operating a motor vehicle. The legislation would give states two years to comply or otherwise risk losing 25 percent of their federal highway funding.

So far, 18 states have bans on texting while driving. Since Aug. 1, 2008, Minnesota has had a state law banning anyone from texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic. However, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota have no such laws restricting texting while driving.

"About 20 to 30 percent of all drivers admit to texting," said Klobuchar. "For younger drivers, the rate is much higher, 50 percent or more. Texting while driving is a very serious public safety concern. It's a national problem, and it deserves a national response."

People should not do things to district them while driving, and there shouldn't be the need of a federal law to legislate such a common-sense rule of the road. But with so many drivers texting, there should be little argument over the need of such a law for the sake of public safety.

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