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Texting ban is easy vote, but will it really help?

With a national Distracted Driving Summit set for next week, expect to hear plenty about the dangers of "texting while driving," along with a variety of other challenges posed by the collision (yes, collision) of high-tech communications and vehicles.

"Texting while driving" already is in the national spotlight thanks to a proposal in the U.S. Senate that forces states to ban it within two years or lose 25 percent of their federal highway funding. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of this cause. To be honest, passage of this proposal amounts to a political no-brainer at the federal level for several reasons. First, it's common sense not to text while driving. Second, the bill really just puts the states on the hook for making it happen. Third, Minnesota is among more than 20 other states with bans in place.

Like any good driver, we support the ban. We're not thrilled, though, with fiscal blackmail, nor do we believe a national ban will make all that much difference -- or at least as much difference as a massive educational campaign.

That's a point we made earlier this year when the National Safety Council deviated from its "educate and influence" mission to call for a ban on using cell phones while driving.

Just as is the case with cell phones, studies and anecdotal evidence about texting while driving build a compelling case for banning it.

A 2008 study by Nationwide Insurance found that 20 percent of U.S. drivers send text messages while operating motor vehicles.

A Virginia Tech study from last year said drivers of heavy vehicles using a hand-held text messaging system had 23.2 times as high a risk of a crash than drivers who weren't texting.

And countless law enforcement agencies nationwide can cite accidents, many deadly, in which texting was done shortly before the crash.

Clearly, people who want to live and not harm others should not be texting while driving. Realistically, though, how will a ban be enforced? The federal proposal comes with no increased resources for law enforcement. Neither does Minnesota's ban.

Plus, as we noted about the cell phone ban suggestion, scientific reviews of studies done in places where cell phones were banned have shown limited compliance and unclear effects on safety.

That raises the obvious question: Will a texting ban be effective?

From an awareness viewpoint, yes. As for compliance, well, we'd suggest law enforcement has higher priorities. -- St. Cloud Times