Laws banning texting while driving are nothing new, for example New York has considered banning electronic devices altogether, and Illinois has considered banning eating, drinking, and grooming behind the wheel. But what hasn't been discussed in as much detail, are the limitations of these laws.

For example, this author discusses at length the potential shortcomings of a texting ban recently approved by the legislature in Idaho.

Under the statute, which is now merely awaiting the Governor's signature, it will be illegal to text and drive, with each crime resulting in an infraction. The law defines “texting” to mean “engaging in the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices.”

Thus, encompassed in this definition, is the use of devices that involve written communications that require the driver to either use their hands to prepare a message, or use their eyes to review them. This is the implied meaning, since it would be impossible to tell from a distance that a person is engaged in reviewing something if the transmission is merely auditory.

The author in the article, however, details how newer model cars have some sort of built in capacity to transmit messages, and that drivers could be preparing messages through using these built in devices, or even the mobile devices that are docked somewhere in the car, rather than a freestanding device. The essence of the argument is that the definition is not broad enough, and that the enforcement of the ban as written will be problematic, if not impossible, with the end result being the officer's word against the drivers.

I have certainly heard similar arguments about other states' laws, but I have two related thoughts on the matter of the textual limitations of texting bans. Pun intended, of course. They both stem from the notion of better safe than sorry.

First, if you've ever been pulled over, then you know that getting out of a ticket isn't always easy. If the officer thinks that you were texting, there is nothing stopping him or her from giving you a ticket, and then it's up to you to disprove your actions in court. Thus, it's better to be safe and not engage in any sort of phone handling or electronic message transmission, regardless of the medium, to keep your focus on the task at hand: driving.

Secondly, and on a derivative note, the point of the laws isn't to create a legal labyrinth of definitions, it's to discourage people from engaging in tactics that distract them from driving. This means not only will the intent of the law carry the day, but rather than trying to figure out a way to "beat the system," why not take it under submission, and again, focus on your primary task rather than some distraction that can wait until you are parked (or out of the car--depending on your state's laws) and able to concentrate fully?

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