With an increasing amount of states opting to implement a ban on texting while driving, the state of Mississippi may very well be next. As of June 2012, though, Mississippi legislators chose to ignore or table all distracted driving measure proposed for the present year, making Mississippi one of 11 states who have yet to address this issue. Mississippi car accident attorneys, however, know that that doesn't mean such legislation isn't peeking over the horizon. According to a report by USA Today, "Growing concern over the continued use of cell phones by drivers has some states reviewing laws against the practice and exploring stiffer fines and harsher penalties."
In fact, many will recall that In December of 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) distributed a press release calling for an outright and nationwide ban of all electronic devices for motorists after studies appeared to show that texting was the primary cause of several fatal crashes. The NTSB, however, does not possess the power to enforce such a ban, leaving the ultimate decision up to the discretion of individual states. Many states took the all-to heart, but while Mississippi earnestly considered similar legislation, contrary to the majority of states, lawmakers here seem to believe laws already in place are doing enough to curb instances of distracted driving - for now that is.
Current prohibitions include:
• Drivers with an intermediate license, a learning permit or a temporary driving permit are prohibited from texting while driving. A violation can result in fines of up to $500 and increase to $1,000 if an accident results.
• Bus drivers barred from using a wireless communication device in any form or fashion while transporting minors. Mississippi is one of only three states with a regulation like this one.
Current distracted driving rules in Mississippi, which clearly target beginner drivers, seem to be based upon the premise that more mature drivers are (or should be) more capable of regulating themselves when it comes to operating a vehicle while operating a cellular device.
Understandably, some people feel that Mississippi may just be on to something by refusing to go the same route as other states. USA Today reports that a 2012 study conducted "by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that current texting bans are not reducing the risk or amount of crashes." However, "some question whether tougher punishment is the answer." According to "Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, a drivers' rights group...steeper fines won't change drivers' behavior." But is this truly the case?
Justin McNaull, director of state relations for auto club AAA, begs to differ. He says "seat belt studies show that when states impose higher fines, more motorists obey the laws." One New Jersey official went so far as to compare current fines and increased fines to a slap on the wrist vs. a slap on the face. New Jersey is one of the states that have proposed raising fines for distracted driving, with repeat offenders being especially affected.
This issue of whether harsher penalties will, in fact, result in a decrease in instance of distracted driving will remain debatable. Our only hope at resolution will be to study the impact such fines have on the states that choose to implement them. Either way, one can be sure that, if anything, increased fines certainly won't hurt.