Unsafe, now illegal

Are you a texting driver? Well, stop now!

A ban on texting while driving enacted by the General Assembly earlier this year goes into effect Thursday. The ban extends to any use of cell phones or other personal communication devices by 16- and 17-year-old drivers.

For now, law enforcement officers who catch motorists violating the new statute will just issue warnings.

But starting Jan.1, 2011, first-time offenders can be fined $25. Subsequent offenses will be subject to $50 fines.

Kentucky lawmakers had solid reasons for approving the texting ban. Multiple studies have demonstrated that texting while driving is up to four times more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that involved the use of in-cab cameras found that drivers of semis were 23 times more likely to crash, nearly crash or wander from their lane while texting.

According to the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, more than 110,000 accidents in the state in 2008 and 2009 were attributable to distractions, inattention and cell phone use. Some 20,000 of those accidents involved injuries, and 403 resulted in fatalities.

So, if you've been a texting driver in the past, help make Kentucky's roads safer in the future by obeying the new law banning that extremely dangerous practice.