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Laws ending phone use while driving are off target

The dangers associated with driving while text messaging or talking on the phone are well known and have led many to push for laws prohibiting them while driving.

However, this approach may backfire and prove less effective than solutions within the current framework of the law.

A report released Tuesday by the Highway Loss Data Institute – which is funded by insurance companies – found that insurance claims and crashes involving drivers younger than 25 actually increased in the four states studied that enacted laws banning texting while driving.

States without the ban see 48 percent of drivers texting while states with a ban see 45 percent of drivers text messaging, the report found.

“The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure, the laws are ineffective,” Adrian Lund, president of the Highway Loss Institute, said in a statement.

The report found that many drivers merely hide the activity, which is even more distracting and dangerous.

Another study found similar results with regard to laws that outlawed talking on the phone while driving.

There are endless activities that could potentially distract drivers such as eating or drinking, changing the radio station, applying makeup, correcting one’s children or even looking at passing billboards. Legislators certainly can’t make all of these illegal.

Distracted drivers who make mistakes like running a stop sign, swerving in their lane or causing an accident, should be ticketed for reckless driving.

In Florida alone, there have been eight recent attempts to pass laws against texting while driving – none went anywhere.

“Anytime there’s a tragic accident, the first instinct is to make a law against that,” Republican State Rep. Marlene O’Tolle, said to The Daily Sun. “I would not put up a bill to ban cell phone use or texting because everyone is personally responsible, and I don’t think passing a law will fix it.”

O’Tolle is right. Enacting a law won’t fix the problem.

Instead, it will give police an opportunity to harass and ticket drivers who may have only opened their phone to see the time or a missed call, as well as those who continue to text or call in spite of legislation.

Government intervention is justified in many cases, but intrusions on personal liberties must only be used if effective.

Regardless of the nature of the distraction, police targeting reckless driving would prosecute those who cause crashes by choosing to act irresponsibly without having to limit all citizens’ personal freedoms.