Texting laws making little difference

I don’t text while driving. I don’t have text services on my cellphone plan and I’ve never developed the talent to press the proper key on first try. Still, I admit to being distracted by the phone, especially when I use the GPS function. You have to push a button and you have to look at the phone. What’s the difference in the danger of distraction between looking at it and pushing a few buttons when you’re trying to find your destination, and looking at it and pushing a few buttons when you want to send a text? Probably not much except, perhaps, in the eyes of the law.

North Dakota’s new ban on texting while driving is proving difficult to enforce, the Fargo Forum reports today, because it’s too easy to say to the cop who just stopped you, “I was looking up a contact to make a phone call,” which is still legal.

Minnesota is apparently finding the same difficulty in enforcing a similar law that went into effect in 2008.


Sgt. Jesse Grabow, the patrol’s public information and safety officer serving the Detroit Lakes and Thief River Falls districts, said he personally has issued “maybe a dozen” tickets and probably twice as many warnings.

“There’s no doubt about it; it’s a difficult law to enforce, just because of the nature of (trying to) prove whether they’re texting on their phone or just simply browsing through their address book to call somebody,” he said.

In Clay County (Moorhead), only a few dozen tickets have been issued for texting-whilte-driving in the last three years. Statewide in North Dakota, only two tickets have been issued in the month or so since the law went into effect.

It may well be that short of banning cellphone use in cars (would that ban portable GPS use, too?), there’s no legislation that’s going to make a big difference.