Currently, officers at an accident scene generally have to take people at their word concerning texting while driving.
“It’s kind of on the honor system right now,” said Sullivan. “You ask people ‘were you on the cell phone? Were you texting?’ And they can say, ‘No,’ as easily as they can be honest, and say, ‘Yes.’”
Asked about next steps, Sullivan indicated some local action might be in the offing.
“Again, we thought that this legislative session might take some action, so we were being cautiously optimistic,” he said. “But it may be something we need to look at going forward. We want to use some of the enhancements to our records systems with the improvements that we’ve set in place, and be able to make an informed decision rather than just a reaction or a personal opinion. It appears to be a hazard; but if the data doesn’t show that, then are we enacting a law for personal preference or an actual ordinance that will benefit our community?”
Still, the chief was clear on his professional stance concerning the act of driving.
“When you’re behind the wheel, driving the car is your most important job – nothing else matters. Not texting, not distractions in the vehicle, not eating a hamburger. Driving is the most important thing and the only thing you should be focused on doing. A little common sense goes a long way.”
While it seems common sense would dictate that drivers avoid texting and driving, hand-held devices can exert a certain allure that often seems to cloud judgement. Connectivity is the thing in our high-tech, digital world. And perhaps there’s a little of that familiar subconscious, “Oh, it couldn’t happen to me” at play.
Again, according to www.distraction.gov, “Some people still don’t know how dangerous distracted driving is. Others know about the risks of texting and talking while driving, but still choose to do so anyway. They make the mistake of thinking the statistics don’t apply to them, that they can defy the odds. Still others simply lead busy, stressful lives and use cell phones and smartphones to stay connected with their families, friends and workplaces. They forget or choose not to shut these devices off when they get behind the wheel.”
One thing is certain: laws and attitudes on texting and driving, and cell phone use in general, are evolving. But for now, while it is not yet illegal in Texas, many officials and concerned citizens hope texters will recognize there’s nothing smart about using a smartphone while driving.