Let's clear up the confusion on texting, driving

It’s a little late to jeer lawmakers for any serious consideration of a bill that would exempt police, emergency medical personnel and firefighters from the state’s ban on texting while driving.

Our readers have already weighed in, and offered enough jeers to go around.

Beth Ring of Peru wrote: “No one should be driving and texting.” It is impossible, she said, “to be safe driving at a high rate of speed and taking your eyes off the road to do anything. This is asking for trouble.”

She’s right.

It is.

So, cheers to Transportation Committee members for voting “ought not to pass” on this bill Thursday.

If we exempt police and other emergency workers, with the understanding that they are trained professionals behind the wheel, what’s next? Exempting long-haul truckers? Bus drivers? Delivery men wearing Pullman Brown shorts?

It’s been illegal to text and drive in Maine since September, but people continue to text and it’s creating undue dangers on our roads. Last month, two teenagers were killed in West Paris when the driver was texting and lost control of the car.

Lt. Walter Grzyb, head of the Maine State Police troop in Gray, which is the barracks investigating the West Paris crash, said that texting and driving is “one of the most significant dangers that are out there on the road.”

In fact, he said, texting while driving has become just as serious an issue as drinking while driving. And, he said, “We’ll see what happens; it may be more (serious).”

That’s saying a lot.

Even though the committee on transportation killed the bill, testimony presented at Tuesday’s public hearing demonstrated real confusion and concern about the current wording of Maine law.

In his testimony, Norway Police Chief Robert Federico made the point that current law might prohibit officers from pulling over to the side of the road to text or to use their laptops at an accident scene or traffic stop. His department interprets it that way, as do others.

Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, disagrees. He thinks current law is clear.

If a police officer, firefighter or other emergency worker “is pulled off the side of the road, they are not driving,” he said. Thus, they are not “texting while driving.”

Here we have two well-respected law enforcement professionals who have read the law and drawn conflicting conclusions, which is enough reason to clear the confusion.

Maybe, instead of going through the legislative process, Attorney General William Schneider might offer an opinion to clarify what “texting while driving” means to police officers and citizen motorists.

It seems to make sense that if you’re not moving, you’re not texting or computing “while driving,” which means you’re abiding by the law.

Let’s clear up the confusion without tinkering with the law.

? ? ?

On Tuesday, a 51-year-old Wytopitlock man was sentenced to serve 366 days in federal prison for shooting an American bald eagle in November 2009.

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Stephen Voisine was sentenced for shooting the eagle while it was perched in a tree in the Kingman area.

In 1978, bald eagles were listed as endangered or threatened in Maine and across the continental United States in an attempt to allow the population to rebound.

It has rebounded, to the delight of biologists, conservationists, bird watchers and others.

In Maine, the greatest number of bald eagles are found in Hancock and Washington counties, and in Penobscot County where Voisine fractured an eagle’s wing and leg with a high-velocity rifle bullet.

It’s bad enough that Voisine would do such a thing, but his hunting license was revoked in 2008 because of a fish and wildlife violation. He was not permitted to own a gun because of domestic violence convictions.

This guy deserves federal prison.

These magnificent birds, unique to North America, are our national symbol and deserve our respect and protection.

Although removed from the “threatened species list,” bald eagles are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act.

They are not to be shot.

Cheers to IF&W and U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigators, for the investigation and prosecution of Voisine’s attack on what the Eagle Nature Foundation calls “a living symbol of our nation’s strength and freedom.”


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Let's clear up the confusion on texting, driving

Joyce, 12.02.26 6 pm hawai'ian time :)
We agree with - e v e r y t h i n g - you have said here
Even though Hyundai ® markets a 2 0 1 2 car with a back seat that is heated , gives you a massage and features a stereo HD TV screen , cars are not a substitute for the living or bed room and never will be
Go buy a motor home
Sexting amongst teens is a growing problem and part of the debate out here in the islands and in Kalamazoo MI http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2012/02/readers_debate_whe...
Lastly ,". ..He was not permitted to own a gun because of domestic violence convictions. This guy deserves federal prison . "
Ayuh ? One and you're done •
Shut up and drive ( not you ! ) /s, Steve

Erik Wood's picture

Technology should be part of the Text and Drive solution...

I read that 94% of drivers think Text and Drive is lethal but over one third still do it. What to do? I think legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I just read that over 3/4 of teens text daily - many text more than 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences those irresistible call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner

Steve  Dosh's picture

Erik , Nice !

Erik ,
Nice !
Do not read whilst driving . Good 'ole Yankee ingenuity ?
Hope it works better than OnStar® . We turned our's off > ten years ago . /s, Dr. Dosh and ohana , Hawai'i

Dave Wilson's picture

NOT the same for everyone

{If a police officer, firefighter or other emergency worker “is pulled off the side of the road, they are not driving,” he said. Thus, they are not “texting while driving.” }

If a civilian was pulled over to the side of the road and they were drinking it would considered "operating".

Just sayin

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The law should apply to all,

The law should apply to all, including cops and firefighters. Any less would be saying that they are qualified to text and drive and the rest of us are not; and that's a crock. Texting and driving is a danger that applies to all.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Tinkering with the law?

This is how this useless texting law should be re-written. Any cell phone use or any observed distraction while driving not only violates the law of common sense, but violates the law--period.
$100.00 fine first offense.

Dave Wilson's picture

Does this include...

... taking a drink of coffee or munching a doughnut etc

AL PELLETIER's picture

You betcha Dave!

Have your coffee and doughnut at home or after arriving at work, not while your operating a 2 ton machine traveling at any speed. What if you spilled some boiling hot coffee on yourself? Would that distract you? What if a large piece of that yummy doughnut fell of and landed somewhere on, or around your lap? I bet anyone would take their eyes off the road in search of that yummy morsel.
I repeat, have your coffee and doughnut before or after your commute, but not while your operating a 2 ton machine traveling 60 miles an hour.
Have I been guilty of doing this? Absolutely! Until I rear ended a VW Beetle years ago when I took my eyes off the road for 2 seconds to look for a dropped cigarette. I have since quit smoking too.


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