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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Texting while driving needs technological response

Anyone who texts while driving has a death wish. Unfortunately, they may take others with them. Driving that message home is one valuable impact of legislation Sen. Charles Schumer sponsored to coerce states to ban the dangerous practice. But a new traffic law is an analog approach to a digital problem.

This is a job better left to the folks who gave us cell phones and the ability to send and receive text messages. Calling all techie entrepreneurs: Develop a way to automatically disable the texting function while driving. Or how about a Web site where motorists can test their ability to drive when they have their eyes and thumbs on a PDA? That could be just the sobering dose of reality drivers need.

Schumer's Alert Drivers Act would require states to pass laws banning texting while driving or lose 25 percent of their federal highway funding. The approach has been used before, for instance to nudge the drinking age up to 21, and to ratchet up penalties for repeat DWI's. But it's not the best way to go now.

The texting problem is real - even though Schumer now says the statistics on fatal texting accidents that he released Sunday are just estimates. Texting while driving is already banned on Long Island and, starting next month, will be throughout the state. But anti-texting laws are hard to enforce. Too often it's only after a crash that it becomes clear a driver was texting. Technology created this problem. Technology should solve it. hN

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