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Montana texting while driving: Only state where texting at wheel is legal, safe?

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A Montana texting while driving debate is still ongoing, as the state of Montana remains the only one in the U.S. where texting behind the wheel of a car is still legal in certain areas. Although officials have said that such a ban should be implemented in order to support overall vehicle and passenger safety, it seems that this important issue has been left to individual municipalities rather than state law. News Max questions this Thursday, June 12, 2014, whether this decision should be reconsidered and whether drivers in Montana are truly safe without such a law being enforced.

Following the passage of a new bill this week, Montana has effectively become the only state in the entire U.S. that does not strictly prohibit texting while driving in certain locales. According to Mike Tooley, the State Department of Transportation Director, a legal ban that prevents the dangerous combination of using a cell phone behind the wheel of a car would be valuable, but the state has a history of failing to create specific laws relating to safety on the roads. Such measures are instead left to local municipalities through Montana.

"I am disappointed that once again we're last to take something regarding highway safety seriously," Tooley said, adding his comment that the state of Montana even went without a statewide law pertaining to installing child safety restraints for a number of years behind others.

MSN News Now reports that roughly 12 ordinances in various cities throughout Montana, as well as an expansive legal ban in a total of two counties, make it illegal for a driver to text and drive behind the wheel of a car. Yet in other areas of the state, it is still perfectly legal — if not morally or safely conscious — to be sending a message on the cell phone when one should be focusing on operating their vehicle.

According to statistics from the state’s Highway Patrol board, cell phone usage and interruption by drivers played a detrimental role in over 1,600 crashes in the past 10 years alone. Yet this Montana texting while driving controversy isn’t just limited to this particular state. Others, too, have open-ended laws that are neither safe nor enforced enough.

As cited by the AAA in a new report, a total of 44 states (including Washington, D.C.) have implemented a full legal ban of texting while driving, regardless of age. Yet other state laws are not so comprehensive. Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Oklahoma only prohibit cell phone usage behind the wheel of a car for drivers that are considered “inexperienced” or “young,” while only bus drivers in Arizona are included in the illegal-if-driving clause.

Although lawmakers in Montana have tried in the past to strictly ban texting on cell phones while in the car in the past several years, nothing has been formally passed. Hopefully, says Democratic sen. Christine Kaufmann in a recent statement, that’s about to change in the near future.

"We should be embarrassed," Kauffmann said of the lack of a statewide ban. "It would be good to have consistency across the state. The focus should be on driving, not talking."

When texting and driving is prohibited everywhere in the U.S., many more drivers will likely be safe and lives will be saved - whether they agree with the law or not.

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