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Law Prof Proposes Tax on Texting to Curb Calamities

Texting while driving seems so inherently stupid that I find it difficult to believe that a federal law is necessary to ban the practice. After all, as far as I know, there's no law specifically prohibiting driving while reading a newspaper, so I'm not sure why a special rule should be needed for texting.

However, as law professor James Edward Maule explains at MauledAgain, 14 states have already enacted laws banning the act. The proposed federal law would use the threat of withheld highway funds to pressure those states that haven't passed such laws to think again.

But Maule is not so sure that a flat ban on texting while driving is the optimal way to address the harms it can cause. As an alternative, Maule suggests a tax on texting instead. He notes that it might not be feasible now, but that it could be if technology can be developed to enable enforcement authorities to determine whether a driver is texting. As for the benefits of a tax rather than a ban, Maule says:

The proceeds from a texting user fee could be used to fund health care and rehabilitation costs for the innocent victims of thoughtless texters, and to compensate the survivors of those killed through the gross recklessness of senseless drivers. They also could be used to fund research into making texting impossible for the driver of a vehicle to do while the vehicle is on the road. In fact, if industry can find a way to use sensors, not to identify texting devices being used by vehicle operators in order to impose a tax, but to shut down the device’s connections until the vehicle is parked, I’d gladly ditch the thoughts of a tax or user fee in favor of the technology solution.

Do you think a tax on texting could work? And if you live in a state where texting while driving has been banned, have you noticed a difference on the roads?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 3, 2009 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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