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September 1, 2008

Jail time in Alaska if you text and drive

This local story from Alaska, headlined "Texting drivers now face jail time: Typing on road is as penalized as first DUI," highlights how states are getting serious in trying to deal with distracted driving.  Here are a few details:

Drivers will have to take their thumbs off their phones and put them back on the steering wheel while cruising down Alaska roads starting today when a ban on text messaging while driving begins.  Drivers are still able to read messages on their phones, BlackBerry's and iPhones, but it is a crime to write messages. The new law also says Alaska drivers are prohibited from watching video while driving.

Alaska joins four other states in barring the latest driver-distraction phenomenon.  Like Alaska's seat belt law, it is considered a primary offense, so an officer could pull a driver over if he thinks the driver is punching away on an electronic device.  But unlike other traffic violations, like the seat belt law, which could result in a fine and points off a license, driving while texting could land a driver in jail.

Texting behind the wheel is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail. It is the same first-time offense punishment as driving under the influence -- although DUIs have minimum sentencing requirements and the texting law does not.

September 1, 2008 at 07:26 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Am I missing something or isn't this 100% unenforceable?

If you shut the phone off when a cop pulls you over, how can he know you were texting without seizing the phone? On what (warrantless) basis could the (non-contraband) phone be seized? If phones are seized for enforcement, won't they have to go through a digital forensics lab to use the data in them as evidence? Does Alaska even have one and is it used for low-level misdemeanors?

Banning any use of a cell phone while driving could be enforced visually like seat belts. This law seems to require officers to know more when they make a stop than is actually possible.

Finally, can this really be that big a problem? It seems like mere common sense and not something you need a law for.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Sep 1, 2008 8:12:11 AM

What freedom are they going to take away next?
Sorry you cant breathe while your driving

Posted by: | Sep 1, 2008 9:48:01 AM

GFB, a quick check of the 'sent messages' folder in the phone or blackberry should do the trick. I'm not sure why 'digital forensics' would be necessary.

I agree that it's a strange law. Texting while driving should be a species of reckless driving.

To the other anonymous commenter, as far as I know, nearly 100% of car collisions involve drivers who were breathing either during or shortly before the collision....

Posted by: | Sep 2, 2008 8:07:33 PM

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