Alaska's largest city proposes lowering fine for texting while driving

Anchorage lawmakers will consider a proposal next Tuesday to increase the number of offending drivers cited.

Pat Wellenbach/AP/File
Driving and texting is a dangerous mix. Most states have banned texting while driving.

Drivers who keep one thumb on their smartphones when they're behind the wheel could be in for a less harsh penalty in Anchorage, Alaska.

Lawmakers in Anchorage are looking to crack down on distracted driving by proposing a new $500 ticket for anyone caught texting on their phones while driving, according to KTUU-TV.

The new proposal will also change the offense to a traffic citation. Presently, a texting-and-driving offense in Alaska is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for a first-time offender. But it’s not easy to prove the crime in court; many cases have gone without prosecution.  

In 2015, only seven texting-and-driving offenses collected enough hard evidence and were deemed prosecutable, the station reports.

If passed, police say the new law will make giving drivers fines easier.

“You have to go to court, you have to present a jury, all those kinds of things, versus going to traffic court [with the proposed ticket],” Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Castro told the station.

According to the US Department of Transportation, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers and nearly 424,000 people were injured in 2013 alone.

Young drivers are the most at risk as automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers. An Automobile Association of America study released earlier this year found that that almost 60% of moderate-to-severe crashes involving teenagers were due to distracted driving.  

Although the danger of distracted driving is worsening as smartphone usage increases, it hasn't attracted stiff penalties in many states.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of drunk-driving fatalities per person decreased 28 percent between 2005 and 2012. During the same time period, the percentage of people observed "visibly manipulating" handheld devises while behind the wheel increased by 650 percent.

“Even though most states outlaw texting while driving, the associated fines are usually far lower than those for drinking and driving, even though several studies show they can be equally as dangerous,” The Huffington Post reported

For example, in Massachusetts, the fine for texting while driving is $100 while the fine for drunk driving can be up to $5,000.

The new law on texting and driving fines in Alaska will be discussed by the Anchorage Assembly on Oct. 27.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.