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Texting laws blur when Kansas drivers cross state lines

Kansas City is bisected by a state border. Drivers who routinely pass back and forth between the two states are subject to texting and driving laws that are diametrically opposed. In Kansas, texting while driving is illegal, but across the eastern state line, all drivers other than novices are free to text when they like.

According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, Kansas is one of 43 states where text messaging and driving is banned. Texting has been proven to be a dangerous distraction, leading to preventable car accidents. Federal officials reported 18 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities, nearly 3,100 deaths and 416,000 injuries in 2010, were related to distracted driving.

A woman living in the Kansas City Metro was on her way to work in late 2009 when her car was struck by another vehicle. In the seconds before the crash, the victim remembered seeing the other driver using a cellphone. The man's vehicle moved out of his travel lane and shoved the second vehicle into a building.

More than four years later, the woman still suffers from head and leg injuries she received that day. Her knees are painful after being shattered in the collision. Migraine headaches are the result of a concussion received after her face struck the steering wheel.

The driver, a man in his 30s, confessed he was texting, a legal activity in the state where the crash took place. The stereotypical texting driver is a teen, but law enforcement agencies and federal reports indicate driving distractions are common among adult drivers, too. Teens have been linked to 21 percent of nationwide texting-related fatalities while adults, ages 20 to 39, have been responsible for 31 percent.

Authorities say texting is too often considered an accepted driving practice. Civil juries may find texting behavior is negligent because distractions cause drivers to ignore the safety of other motorists.

Source: KSHB, "Distracted driving changes one woman's life forever" Melissa Yeager, May. 01, 2014

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