No-Texting Law Goes Into Effect For All Drivers

06/01/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) It's now illegal to text while driving a car in Vermont.  

Governor Jim Douglas signed into law a ban on texting for all drivers, along with additional restrictions for younger drivers.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The bill signing took place in the parking lot at Montpelier High School. This location was chosen because state highway officials had set up an obstacle course to demonstrate the dangers of texting while driving.

Dozens of orange cones dotted the parking lot outlining a course for drivers to take. Students and adults took turns driving a golf cart around the course to test their skills.

Captain Drew Bloom is an enforcement officer at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

From the passenger seat of the golf cart, he guides the drivers through the course.  Then he asks them to navigate it while sending a text and during this second run, he constantly reminds them of hypothetical situations they might face.

Bloom has brought this demonstration to many high schools over the past six months. He says it's a dramatic way for individuals to learn that texting is a huge distraction for drivers.

(Bloom) "Even though they're hitting a cone here today, one error could be moving over the fog line, which could cause a head-on crash, or could be running a stop sign. It could be striking a pedestrian, could be striking an animal, could be striking another vehicle."

(Kinzel) Phil Scott is the vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and a cosponsor of the texting ban. He's also a professional race car driver. Scott was urged to try his hand on the course. 

His driving skills are much better than most of the students - his texting skills are not. He says the course is a great hands-on demonstration.

(Scott) "It certainly opened up my eyes when I went through because I've admittedly texted before driving and it's terribly, terribly difficult. And it's physically impossible because you have to look down and you take your eyes off the road to do the text and to make sure it's correct. So this is something, it hopefully will help correct bad behavior on the roads."

AP/Jim Cole
(Kinzel) The legislation also bans drivers under 18 from using cell phones or any electronic devices while operating a car. Younger drivers will also be subject to primary enforcement of the state's seat belt law.

Captain Bloom says the new law is a key educational tool for all drivers.

(Bloom) "I think the educational component is really critical, which is why we've been working very, very hard over the last several months making this happen and getting the message out there. Because it is going to be a challenge to enforce."

(Kinzel) The bill doesn't prohibit drivers over 18 from using cell phones. Supporters of such a ban say they hope to address this issue next January.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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