Smart phones, dumb drivers in Delaware

    The first round of “Phone in one hand, ticket in the other” is over in Delaware.  By the number of tickets handed out it could be considered a learning experience for some.  Rob Tornoe has changed his view over time about whether this is a good thing.


    Here is Rob’s commentary

    A few years ago, when states started toying around with the idea of legislating distracted driving rules, I felt like it was just more government run amok. “Department of Wasted Time” I decried in several political cartoons I drew at the time. Boy, was I wrong.

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    In 2010, Delaware became the 30th state to outlaw text messaging by all drivers. Since then, a slew of other states have joined the herd, but to my surprise there are still six states that don’t have any ban on texting while driving – Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, South Carolina, Florida and Hawaii. The thought of a senior citizen in Orlando reaching down for their jitterbug while driving sends shivers up my spine.  Last month, Delaware conducted a campaign called “Phone in One Hand – Ticket in the Other” as a way to highlight the dangers of using your cell phone while driving. The campaign cited more than 1,800 drivers for distracted driving – namely, talking or texting while they were behind the wheel. A good friend of mine was one of the victims. He was given a ticket after he pulled out his cell phone to check his email at a red light. A cop happened to see it, pulled him over and gave him a ticket. As first, I was sympathetic with my friend, and my old anger over good intentions run amok began to bubble over. But then I thought about all the horrible incidents I’ve read about in Delaware where families and young kids had their lives totally destroyed, all because of some innocent cell phone use. The statistics are even more sobering. In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, and another 416,000 were injured. Last year, 147 crashes in Delaware were caused by distracted driving. And a recent study shows that 40 percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. All because someone couldn’t wait to answer the phone, or send a flippant LOL text message. I’m guilty of it, too. I’ll catch myself from time to time taking a call while I’m driving. I even justify it to my friends and family. But in the end, all it really would take is a moment of inattentiveness on my part for something terrible to happen, all because I couldn’t wait ten minutes to check my voicemail. Delaware plans two more campaigns like this next year. Good. We were able to enforce the use of seat belts to the point where it’s become instinctual that buckling up can save your life. Hopefully, we’ll reach the same point as far as cell phones are concerned. —– Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on Twitter @RobTornoe.


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