AAA: Drivers support ban on texting

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A recent survey of AAA members in Missouri, Southern Illinois southern Indiana and eastern Kansas has found that 92 percent believe texting from behind the wheel is deadly and states should make the practice illegal.

Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA Missouri, said the poll responses seem to reiterate sentiment he's found among others nationwide.

"Based upon the studies I've seen, you're much more susceptible to a motor vehicle accident when using a cell phone while driving," he said. "When you factor in text messaging, that number would certainly multiply because it's disrupting cognitive reasoning and both hands of the driver. And that's unlike using a cell phone, which you still may have control by using one hand."

State Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, is sponsoring Senate Bill 130, which would outlaw motorists from sending, reading or writing text messages while driving. The bill would not apply to those operating emergency vehicles or sending a text message to report illegal activity. If passed, the legislation would take effect Aug. 28.

Missouri State Highway Patrol commercial vehicle officer Randy Tillman of Hayti, Mo., understands the dangers of text messaging while driving.

In November, his 24-year-old daughter, Stefany, sent a text message while driving a Yukon on Interstate 155 in Pemiscot County. Moments later, the vehicle she was driving veered off the road and overturned. Stefany, who was thrown from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tillman believes the accident continues to raise awareness of the issue.

"I've noticed some newspapers and websites have picked up the story, and I've received calls from people who've heard what happened," Tillman said. "So that's one way it's helping to spread the message about the importance of this issue."

Right said AAA supports Senate Bill 130.

Cpl. Adam Glueck of the Cape Girardeau Police Department said he supports any measure such that would cut down on cell phone use by drivers. While he was unaware of any accidents in Cape Girardeau related to texting, he said some have occurred because of cell phone use.

"I understand there are some important uses for a cell phone, such as for emergency responders," Glueck said. "It's critical for all drivers to be alert, especially near a playground, school or other traffic area. That can be difficult to do when sending a text message."

While Tillman said he would support a ban on texting, "I don't know if that would help since it would be hard to enforce. It's just important not to be text messaging when driving."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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