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Editorial: Eyes on the road, not your phone

Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 5:41 PM

No more texting while driving

As of August 1, it became illegal in Louisiana to access social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while driving.

There’s a good reason for the ban — it is dangerous both for the driver, passengers and to occupants of other vehicles to be attempting such distracting actions as using social media while driving.

The new state law banning the use of social media while driving was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal on May 30, after lawmakers approved it during the 2013 legislative session.

State law already banned texting while driving but did not address the use of social media sites. However, the new law that has gone into effect will not ban the general use of the Internet on smartphones while driving.

Anyone caught accessing social media while driving could be issued a ticket for up to $175, with subsequent offenses costing up to $500. These are the same penalties in place for texting while driving.

The ban will apply to anyone using “any web-based service that allows individuals to construct a profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and communicate with other members of the site.”

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso encourages citizens to obey the laws banning social media while driving.

Studies have shown that at any given moment across America approximately 600,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.

Mancuso said he does not discount the fact that cell phones act as lifesaving tools in emergency situations. About 290,000 emergency calls are made very day from wireless devices.

“But there is a time and place for text messaging, and when you’re driving is not one of them,” he said.

According to the American Automobile Association, distracted driving contributes to more than 5,000 traffic fatalities each year.

The sheriff offered the following tips for safe use cell phones and social media:

• Obey the law. Don’t text or use social media while you’re behind the wheel.

• Before you get behind the wheel, get to know your phone’s features, such as speed dial and redial. Use a hands free device when possible.

• Never read or write while the car is moving. If you must write a note or take down a phone number during a conversation, pull over.

• Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, don’t stop in dangerous areas. When stopped, keep your car doors locked.

• Position your phone within easy reach or let your voice mail answer rather than taking your eyes off the road to look for the phone.

• Let the person you are speaking to know you are driving.

• Do not engage in emotional conversations as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.

• Dial 911 to report an emergency — it’s free from your wireless phone.

That’s good advice. Follow it and obey the law.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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