Globe Editorial

Texting ban: Ticketing is only part of it

(John Walsh/Istockphoto/
Globe Staff Illustration)
January 10, 2011

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Since the state’s ban on texting-while-driving went into effect last September, police have handed out only 245 citations. That may seem low; it averages out to fewer than three tickets a day, and surely more drivers than that still text behind the wheel in Massachusetts. Yet despite the low ticket count, the state’s roads are likely safer with the ban in place.

The new statistics only prove what was obvious: The law isn’t easily enforceable. From a distance, texting in a vehicle can look like simply dialing a phone, which remains legal.

That doesn’t mean the new law has been ineffective. Above all, the ban was designed to shift public attitudes and behavior, and it seems to be working: What was once accepted as a guilty habit is increasingly seen as a reckless action. Citation statistics don’t reflect that slow-but-steady transformation.

Law enforcement officials should keep looking for ways to catch delinquent texters. And if the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers doesn’t plateau or drop soon, lawmakers should consider the law they should have passed in the first place: a categorical ban on all cell phone use by drivers.