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Editorial: Try fear to improve driving

Texting while driving kills. Not quite as hazardous, but still dangerous, is talking on the phone while driving -- even hands-free. But what can we do about it?

Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended states ban the use of all portable electronic devices by drivers, including hands-free cellphones, except in emergencies. The five-member board was unanimous in sending this message, but it's not going to be enough.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) wants to ban texting while driving via federal law, but that's unnecessary. States mostly control driving laws, and there's no need for a change. Besides, texting while driving is already illegal in most states, just as talking on a handheld phone is banned in many. It hasn't really helped.

The NTSB has recommended bans on texting and cellphones for commercial drivers and new drivers before, but this is the first time it's called for a ban for adults driving passenger vehicles. Surveys show drivers understand how dangerous distracted driving is, but they do it anyway. They're just not scared enough to change.

So in Somerset, N.J., those caught texting while driving are offered a choice: Pay a $100 fine or watch a movie that shows the effect distracted driving has on victims and their loved ones. It's a throwback to the scary videos we watched in drivers ed, and an approach that seems to go in the right direction. Laws and logic haven't worked. Perhaps fear and gore can.