DWT Spells Trouble
August 7, 2007, 9:25 PM
Cell phones may be the next best thing to being there, but today many cell phone users are letting their fingers do the talking, by text messaging.
But police say they're seeing more accidents because many drivers are trying to text while behind the wheel.
Music blaring, one hand on the wheel and the other on her cell phone, 17 year old Bailey Jensen says she's constantly text messaging her friends.
"Like a lot, like my inbox now 300 some messages and I just cleared it like four days ago," said Jensen.
In fact, Jensen says she texts more than she talks.
"I love texting."
Her friend Keisha Halma is no different.
"I text quite a bit, especially if it's a person I like to text, I won't hesitate not to do it," said Halma.
But to do *it, you have to take your eyes off the road and that's dangerous.
"I see it as a growing problem."
Sioux Falls police don't keep track of how many accidents are directly related to text messaging, but they see people using their cell phones all the time while driving and now with more people texting, it's an added distraction.
"Driving is a full time job and if you're dividing your attention between your cell phone and a conversation then you're not doing justice to your job," said Lt. Jerome Miller.
"I've had close calls doing it, but I still do it even though it could be dangerous," said Halma.
In June, five teenagers died in a fiery crash in New York. Investigators say the driver was texting someone with her cell phone.
This year, nine states have considered legislation specifically banning driving while texting. Washington is the first state to pass a law, making DWT, a crime with a $100 fine.
"I would hate that because I always use my cell phone when I'm driving," said Jensen.
"I wouldn't be happy about that I'd probably still do it because it's too addicting," said Halma.
Police say enforcing DWT might be difficult.
"If I look over and see the car right next to me and someone looking at their cell phone and they're pounding numbers, I have no idea if hey are dialing the phone or text messaging," said Lt. Miller.
But Miller has told his officers, if they see someone driving while texting and they're having a tough time staying between the lines, to pull them over and write them a $104 ticket for careless driving.
For now, that's all they can do, unless lawmakers decide to make DWT illegal.
"You know if it continues to grow as a problem where it causes crashes, property damage and injuries, then we may have to look at something like that," said Miller.
Because in the eyes of law enforcement, doing more texting while driving only spells trouble.
AAA says 14 states restrict the use of cell phones by drivers younger than 18.
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