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Texting while driving law difficult to enforce

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

On Aug. 1, 2008 a new law banning texting while driving took effect.

One year later, police officers and state troopers still haven't seen a decline in cell phone use on the road.

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"I don't think that texting has ever stopped," said Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers. "You can drive right down the street here and watch car after car on their cell phone."

Minnesota is one of 14 states and the District of Columbia that now ban texting while driving, which is a misdemeanor with fines going for up to $300.

But local law enforcement officers have yet to ticket inattentive texters on the road.

"It's a tough law to uphold at times," said state patrol trooper Kelly Johnson, who covers Hubbard and Cass Counties. "You don't know if they're dialing or texting or simply talking on the phone."

He said he has seen cell phone use increase now more than ever before, while research continues to prove that cell phone use is a major cause for car accidents.

New data from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that "heavy vehicle" or truck drivers who text on the road are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-distracted drivers.

The study provided a clear picture of driver distraction and cell phone use under real world driving conditions.

According to the study, those who dial on a cell phone while driving "light vehicles" are 2.8 times more likely to crash (or almost crash) than non-distracted drivers.

"Recent results from other researchers using driving simulators suggest that talking and listening is as dangerous as visually distracting cell phone tasks," according to the study.

Which is why it would be easier for officers to enforce a law banning all kinds of cell phone use.

"The overall safe thing to do is to put a law against talking on a cell phone unless it's a hands free talking device," Johnson said. "That would be much easier to enforce for us."

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