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Driving While Texting: Apps to Block It and Toughening Laws

About 97 percent of Americans support a ban on texting while driving, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

The survey also showed that half say that texting while behind the wheel should be punished at least as harshly as drunken driving.

The growing concerns about districted drivers was highlighted in a recent New York Times story.

In the article, Michael Brooks, 38, from Limerick, Pa., said "Someone who is texting creates just as much of a danger as someone behind the wheel who is inebriated."

Though technology appears to be distrating drivers, technology might also help control the problem.

The Consumerist blog reviewed 3 cell phone applications meant to disable texting in certain circumstances. These programs are marketed mainly to parents of teenagers. They can disable texting if the phone's GPS detects that the phone is moving faster than 10 mph.

Texting while driving is already banned for federal staff, according to an executive ordered signed by President Barack Obama last month.

Currently, the federal government is also considering plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers traveling across state lines, and may also prevent them from using cell phones while driving, except in emergencies.

Senators Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, have introduced legislation to force states to ban texting while driving or lose federal highway funds.

So, far Utah has passed the nation’s toughest law to crack down on texting behind the wheel. A New York Times article, reports that offenders in Utah now face up to 15 years in prison.

This has sparked lots of debate among legislators across the country about how to reduce multitasking behind the wheel.

For example, in Alaska it is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if a driver causes a fatal accident when a television, video monitor or computer is on inside the car and in the driver’s field of vision.  However, the law applies to phones used for texting, but not to phones used exclusively for calling.

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