When approaching an intersection that features cross traffic, one of the best motorcycle-safety practices I have learned is to make eye contact with the other driver(s).
But sometimes this awareness strategy is impossible due to the other driver texting. Although not moving, texting while stopped is still a threat. Why? By nature, a motorist’s mind is psychologically trained to quickly view other cars, not so much motorcyclists. So while occuppied with texting, the driver may just give a quick glance, and if no cars are present, he or she will pull from their intersection, directly in front of a motorcyclist (or pedestrian, bicyclist, or anything else that doesn’t resemble a car).
This is just one example of why texting while driving is a huge threat to motorcycle riders. But many states are out to change this, the latest being Alabama.
On Tuesday, Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill that will ban texting while driving in Alabama, the 38th state to outlaw the dangerous act (plus Guam and D.C.).
The new law, which like others, was modeled after an Executive Order by President Obama in 2009 that prohibited employees from texting while driving government-issued vehicles. The new Alabama law goes into effect Aug. 1, 2012.
The Governors Highway Safety Association says: “The new law prohibits Alabama drivers from operating a motor vehicle on a public street while text messaging on a handheld cell phone or other handheld wireless device. It is a primary law, meaning officers can city motorists for violations without any other traffic offense taking place. The penalties are $25 for a first conviction, $50 for a second and $75 for each later conviction.”
Besides Alabama, the other two states to join this texting while driving ban in 2012 were West Virginia and Idaho (April).
These anti-texting bans will ultimately help provide additional safety for motorcyclists. A quick fact from the Idaho Office of Highway Safety helps back this, considering distracted driving such as texting while driving has contributed to one out of every five crashes in the state between 2007 and 2009.
Upon hearing the news about a previous state that banned texting while driving, the American Motorcycle Association responded.
Peter terHorst (AMA Spokesman) says: “The American Motorcyclist Association is encouraged by the number of states taking action to penalize distracted driving activities such as texting while operating a motor vehicle.
“Distracted or inattentive driving has become a major concern to the motorcycling community. Motor vehicle operators engaged in these behaviors are not just a danger to motorcyclists – they endanger pedestrians, bicyclists, roadside assistance and emergency medical personnel, highway construction workers, and law enforcement personnel. The AMA acknowledges that motorcyclists share this responsibility as well.
“The AMA supports legislation that includes enhanced penalty options to be determined by the courts. Examples include enhanced fines, operator’s license suspension, points assessed on an operator’s record, community service, and imprisonment.”
The first state to make the roads a bit safer for motorcyclists was Washington, which signed the texting ban into law in May, 2007. Since then, many states jumped on the safety trend.
But there are still 12 states to go. If you’re a motorcyclist in one of these 12 states, there are ways to be heard. Log onto the rights’ section of the AMA website to become active in ensuring not only your own safety, but the safety of every motorcyclist riding in your state.
Following is a list of states that ban texting while driving:
- Alabama (Aug. 1, 2012)
- Idaho (July 1, 2012)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia (July, 2012)
*D.C., Guam are also included in the texting ban