Driven to Distraction: Laws for Driving

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Some Legislators across the country want drivers to pay more attention on the highway. So they're using research to support new laws to get drivers to do just that.

The state of Texas has mandated mindful motoring, especially for one group of drivers.

Driving is a daily routine for most Americans and with our fast paced lives, many people end up doing more than one thing behind the wheel. But a research scientist says drivers can't afford the mental time to fiddle with CD or DVD players in the car.

That scientist is Susan Chrysler. She is the manager of the Human Factors Research Program at the Texas Transportation Institute. Her job is to test the variables that affect people's driving.

The results of her research stress that drivers need to treat driving as a full time job, especially since the highway situations in the last twenty years has gotten a lot more complicated. "I think in some ways driving distracted can be as bad as driving drunk and you are putting other people at risk don't just yourself when you engage in those activities that you know you shouldn't be," says Chrysler.

Anything that takes your mind off the road is considered a distraction. A cell phone, a crying baby, or the person next to you all can slow down your reaction time when you need it most. Even though all drivers are prone to taking their eyes off the road, research suggests younger drivers do it more often.

Chrysler says there is research that supports the idea of limiting teenagers text messaging and using their cell phone while they are still learning how to drive. So Texas State Legislators decided to set limitations. It is now state law, that new drivers, age 17 and under, are banned from using any type of wireless communication device in the vehicle for the first six months after getting their license.

Three other states took their ban a step further. New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia all have laws that prohibit not only teens, but all drivers from using cell phones without hands-free devices. Sixteen states are compiling data to track the different types of distractions involved in traffic accidents and what they gather could lead to more laws.

No matter what they find, experts say there are two rules every driver on the road needs to follow. One, "Always make sure that you are properly restrained in the vehicle that you're driving," says Senior Trooper Eddie Carmon, of the Texas Department of Public Safety. And two, always keep your eyes and mind on the road.