Minnesota to Ban Driving While Texting

Driving While Texting King Banian is not at all happy that Minnesota’s legislature has passed a law that would make criminals of drivers “texting, reading or sending electronic messages while their cars are on the road.” This, despite the legislature’s commissioned research [PDF] on the subject concluding crashes from these activities “represent only a tiny fraction of all such crashes in Minnesota that year—less than 0.4 percent of all crashes in each category.”

This is, I think, simply one of those cases when people are more apt to believe their own lying eyes than the evidence. Certainly, it seems like every yahoo who swerves into my lane, drives 25 mph below the speed limit in the passing lane, or otherwise makes a nuisance of himself on the road is holding a phone to his ear [or otherwise engaged with his beloved device]. And there have been plenty of anecdotal but hysterical media accounts of the “growing threat” posed by this practice.

The perception that something’s true, though, doesn’t make it so. And King’s right: The state ought to have some burden to demonstrate the risk before enacting such an infringement on people’s liberties.

Image: Car Auto News

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. @Armano if visiting MN and Tweet at red lights, beware http://tinyurl.com/5cl96c

  2. @Armano if visiting MN and Tweet at red lights, beware http://tinyurl.com/5cl96c

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    Can you please explain how someone would be texting with their phone while holding said phone to their ear? You anecdotal evidence would not seem to match with the law in question.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Can you please explain how someone would be texting with their phone while holding said phone to their ear?

    I’m conflating texting with calling, obviously, but both are in the same category: Seemingly dangerous but without much statistical evidence to back that up.

    You raise an important point, though: It’s much harder to catch someone texting.

  5. Michael says:

    The state ought to have some burden to demonstrate the risk before enacting such an infringement on people’s liberties.

    We have a default right to do whatever we please on public roadways? Which amendment was that?

    Now 0.4 percent of accidents sounds like a very minor fraction, and it is, but outlawing texting comes at an equally small cost because it will only be enforced as a secondary offense (mostly because that’s the only way it can be enforced).

    Sure it would be better to pass a law that prevents 90% of accidents, but any such law would be extremely costly and invasive. If outlawing texting on paper alone drops the related accident rate from 0.4 to 0.2, then the cost/benefit analysis would make it worthwhile.

  6. steveplunk says:

    I thought there were plenty of studies confirming the use of cell phones as a driving danger and by extension texting as well. Probably more evidence in support than global warming or second hand smoke has.

  7. Janis Gore says:

    While they’re at it, can they do something about those d**ned Mardi Gras beads hanging from the rearview mirror?

  8. brainy435 says:

    You know, if we actually cared enough to actually educate people on how to drive, as opposed to the laughable programs required now, we wouldn’t have to keep passing these nickel and dime laws to try and stem the damage of ignorant people strapped into 2 ton vehicles.

  9. William d'Inger says:

    “represent only a tiny fraction of all such crashes in Minnesota that year—less than 0.4 percent of all crashes in each category.”

    How the heck can they know that? If Minnesota drivers admit, “It was my fault officer because I was texting.”, they sure are more honest than drivers around here.

    My insurance agents have always cautioned me to never admit to anything (unless I’m testifying under oath) and that if I do admit something, it will be counted aginst me in my premium payments or result in my insurance being dropped altogether. I presume the same rules apply most places.

  10. legion says:

    William,
    Both the phone and the phone company maintain records of calls & texting. Most insurance investigators these days will check those records & compare them to the time of the crash, looking for someone to lay blame to.

    And perhaps I’m being naive, but couldn’t people crashing due to this behavior simply be busted for reckless driving? Or am I underestimating legislatures’ need to pass ineffective and meaningless laws for no reason other than publicity?

  11. Alex says:

    James,

    I’m a legislative attorney in a northeast state that is currently considering this option. In fact, I drafted a bill calling for texting, emailing, etc, while driving to be a secondary offense…getting beyond the practical enforcement issues, I’m just not a big fan of the current trend towards outlawing cell phone use while driving…what’s next? no radio?

  12. William d'Inger says:

    Or am I underestimating legislatures’ need to pass ineffective and meaningless laws for no reason other than publicity?

    BINGO!!! The propensity of governments to Big Mother asymptotically approaches infinity.

  13. navtechie says:

    How about you just make a single law that is titled “No driving while stupid”

    That would take encapsulate almost any infraction the horsesh!t drivers these days could possibly do.

  14. Brian K says:

    I’m just not a big fan of the current trend towards outlawing cell phone use while driving

    Me neither. Particularly because cell phones are used to report crimes or other emergencies where landlines or stationary cell phone use is not available.

  15. Fence says:

    Both the phone and the phone company maintain records of calls & texting. Most insurance investigators these days will check those records & compare them to the time of the crash, looking for someone to lay blame to.

    Really? They can do that? Do the insurance investigators get a subpoena? Telecom companies aren’t allowed to just give out info about customers to anyone who asks.

    A ban on Texting while moving seems like a good idea to me. I mean, no eyes on the road, one hand on the wheel, and mind elsewhere? I’ve done it, and I’m probably less safe in such cases than if I’d had about 4 beers. At least with the beers I’d be watching the road. But I do think you should be allowed to do it when at red lights or stuck in traffic not moving. That is now the only time I do it.

    As for this woman in the picture, even if she put down her phone she’d still be distracted by all the crap hanging from her mirror.

  16. FireWolf says:

    James,

    As a resident of Minnesota (aka the “Nanny” state) I am not at all surprised at this law. The reports from local MSM state that this was aimed at cracking down on teens who text while driving.

    I see passage of this law par for the course at the capital. (IE hurry up and rush bills through before the public knows what hit them)

    Right now with fuel prices up, regular police patrols through most neighborhoods slim to none, I imagine that this will be enforced as an “after the fact” violation. Meaning that when an accident occurs and someone dies, the surviving responsible party can then be hit with a criminal misdemeanor of “TWD” which will open the doorway in the future of escalating this into a felony.