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Distracted Driving: The New DWI?

As DWI-related deaths and accidents have declined dramatically over the past thirty years, attention has focused on other forms of bad driving: drug impaired driving, which is illegal under DWI laws, but difficult to detect in practice, and distracted driving.

In 2010, North Carolina banned a form of distract driving – texting-while-driving – but, as you can imagine, this is very difficult to enforce. Police often can only cite someone for texting-while-driving in the event of an accident, where the driver admits that he was texting while driving. In other cases, it’s very difficult for a police officer to determine whether the person was texting-while-driving.

An Bowling Green, Ohio ordinance points out a further problem with distracted while driving laws.

According to [The Bowling Green (Ohio) News], the [city] ordinance would ban any type of distraction that takes the driver’s attention away from the road. While some residents expressed concern that this vague definition would violate their rights, personal injury attorney Mike D. Bell says the heart of the ordinance is in everyone’s best interest

While the intent behind the law is to ban the use of any mobile device – iPad, cell phone, texting device – the language is so vague that it could ban drinking a soda while driving, fixing the radio while driving, and eating while driving.

Some people may believe that one should not do any of those things while driving, but the fact of the matter is that nearly everyone does perform those tasks while driving. The law would effectively criminalize the act of driving in practice, giving the police the right to stop any vehicle for any observed behavior along these lines, which will lead to further arrests.

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