It sometimes seems like no matter how many times people hear the stories of how dangerous texting while driving can be, there are some who will continue their behavior unabated. The incredibly dangerous and irresponsible behavior leads to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, each one preventable. Sadly, Mississippi legislators have not done enough to stiffen penalties for distracted driving, something that may be encouraging the problem for those drivers in the state.
According to the federal government, more than 3,300 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2012. Add to that number the more than 400,000 people who suffered injuries in distracted driving crashes and you’ve got an epidemic that needs serious attention.
Despite the well-known harm that can come from texting and driving, it continues to happen frequently across Mississippi. Some safety advocates say that the state’s relatively lax laws on the subject may be partially to blame. In Mississippi, it is illegal for teens under 17 to text behind the wheel. Other than that, there are no other laws on the books regarding texting or other common distracted driving behaviors.
This means that Mississippi is one of only a handful of states without legislation banning texting while driving, something that has prompted much criticism of the state’s legislature. Though everyone agrees the problem is a serious one, there has not yet been enough support to pass a bill outlawing the deadly conduct.
Last year, 12 bills were proposed that would have stiffened penalties for texting driers and each one failed. This year, legislators say they are considering even more measures on the subject, though it isn’t yet clear whether any will garner enough support to pass. Some opponents say that people are reluctant to embrace further government regulations, with voters growing tired of the government legislating individual behavior.
Others say that personal responsibility has failed to work with regard to texting, with the hundreds of thousands of distracted driving-related injuries serving as proof that government intervention is necessary. So far one measure before the House has gained some traction and would make it illegal for anyone under 18 to text and drive. Another measure in the Senate, SB 2434, would allow officers to charge texting drivers with careless driving and require them to pay a $50 fine. Whether ether measure is passed by both houses and then is able to get the governor’s signature remains to be seen, though safety advocates have their fingers crossed that 2014 is the year that Mississippi finally starts to tackle its distracted driving problem.
If you have been injured in a Mississippi car, motorcycle or tractor-trailer accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Jackson / Hinds County personal injury attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley at (601) 856-7800.
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