Citizens Urge Ban On Texting While Driving

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(Host) Supporters of a bill that would ban texting while driving urged members of the Senate Transportation committee to quickly adopt the legislation this year.

And they want the committee to include tough penalties as part of the law.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) A wide variety of people testified at the public hearing – high school students, driver education teachers, highway safety officials, interested citizens and several lawmakers.

Roughly 19 states currently have laws in place banning texting while driving and virtually everyone who testified wants Vermont to join this group.

Courtney VanKleeck is a Drivers Ed instructor at Colchester High School:

(VanKleeck) "It is a great risk to all of us because they’re not just a risk to themselves, they’re a risk to all of us. And we already know that – through the results of accidents on the highway. And it’s just continuing to grow at a fast rate."

(Kinzel) Diana Marchessault is a student at Colchester High School. She has first hand experience with this issue:

(Marchessault) "I’ve been in a car with friends who will swerve while they’re texting while driving because they simply can’t concentrate on what they’re doing when they’re texting. Because when you’re just talking to someone you can still concentrate on the road, whereas when you’re texting you’re paying attention to your keyboard and what you’re typing. And that takes your eyes off the road. And if you take your eyes off the road for 2 seconds you can get into an accident – which most kids don’t understand because they think they’re invincible."

(Kinzel) Elise Crowley is also a student at the high school. She urged the committee to include tough penalties in the legislation to discourage students from engaging in this activity:

(Crowley) "There’s this technique that you can put your phone on the wheel…if you’re not looking at the road for like a couple of seconds and a car stops in front of you and you have to slam on your brakes it’s like the scariest thing ever.  If it’s just ten days, that’s like nothing – they’ll get rides and it just won’t be effective."

(Kinzel) Senator Vincent Illluzzi is a sponsor of the bill. He agrees with the get tough approach. He thinks adults who violate the law should pay a hefty fine and he wants to suspend the licenses of junior drivers:

(Illuzzi) "I think that would be narrow enough and strong enough to get the message out to Vermonters – particularly younger Vermonters – that this is a dangerous activity and is not condoned as a matter of public policy in Vermont."

(Kinzel) The Senate Transportation committee is expected to vote on the bill by the end of next week.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.       

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