Boston subway crash rekindles texting-while-driving debate

Some want 'distracted driving' laws, others urge safety education

A subway collision in downtown Boston on Friday injured 49 people, including the operator of one of the trains who later admitted that he was texting his girlfriend when the crash occurred.

The disaster has reignited the debate on texting while driving a car or operating some other type of vehicle. A stream of bloggers joined the discussion, some urging more states to pass laws specifically focused on outlawing texting while driving. Ten states already have such laws.

In Boston, the head of the agency that oversees the subways was outraged over the 24-year-old operator's actions and has since called for banning all operators from even carrying their mobile devices onto subway trains. That would expand on a previous policy banning texting while operating a train.

The CTIA, which represents hundreds of cell phone companies, has posted a series of safety statements on its Web site urging drivers not to text while driving. The CTIA also has posted statements noting how cell phones are linked to safety, with thousands of requests made every day nationwide to 911 emergency centers from accident scenes.

In an e-mail today, a CTIA spokeswoman explicitly said that the group since January has favored legislative bans on texting while driving "because of the necessary involvement of one's hands and eyes away from the task at hand. ... It is unfortunate that legislation is needed, but it is one way that we can ensure people are aware of the dangers of taking their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel."

Despite its stance on texting, the CTIA remains neutral on laws banning cell phone use for talking, or "hands-free" legislation, she added. "We believe consumers can best determine what laws that they would or would not support for making phone calls," she said. The association also urges drivers to pull their vehicles over to a safe area when making a call or keeping a call brief so they can focus on driving safely. In addition, the CTIA agrees with laws that limit cellular use by inexperienced and novice drivers. The issue of texting while operating a vehicle is serious, as was evident last September when a train engineer involved in a train crash that killed 25 people was found to be texting at the time. The Boston crash showed how divided people are on the issue of texting or talking on the phone while operating a vehicle.

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