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Decades of research shows that expanding roads doesn’t provide lasting congestion relief. More lanes means more traffic.

Utah drops the hammer on texting drivers

The New York Times reported on the recently passed Utah legislation which makes texting behind the wheel a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail should it result in a fatal crash. From the article:

The new law, which took effect in May, penalizes a texting driver who causes a fatality as harshly as a drunken driver who kills someone. In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless.'It’s a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.'

Read the full article here.

The law was enacted after a crash caused by a texting teen killed two noted rocket scientists. In the end the teen pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 200 hours of community service and required to read Les Miserables.

The University of Utah also happens to be the source of a 2006 study that showed how and why drivers who are talking on a cell phone are as impaired as those with a .08 blood alcohol level, a finding that is becoming more and more recognized, accepted and cited. Keep up the good work beehive state!

It seems as though a cultural shift in our national attitude towards the use of multitasking technologies while driving is inevitable as the undeniable scientific evidence from the lab continues to stack up on top of the anecdotal evidence in the form of roadway carnage. Transportation director Ray LaHood’s upcoming September summit between senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics is just one more tangible reason to hope for a national shift in perspective about the issues and dangers associated with distracted driving.

In much the same way that we once lived in a clouded state of cognitive dissonance about the dangers of drinking and driving, but were finally shaken out of that somnambulistic state, we can hope to one day soon come out of the dream (or nightmare) we're living in now about the true dangers of the use of distracting technologies while driving.