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OUR VIEW: Ban on texts while driving will save lives

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when they are drawn to the screen on your phone. Metro roadways are treacherous enough without having the added distractions, which is why we applaud Friday’s announcement that the state is banning drivers from texting, checking e-mail or using the Internet while driving.

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a pair of laws Friday, including one that prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using a cell phone at all while driving. Both laws, which take effect July 1, are necessary and should make local roads safer.

Violations will lead to a $150 fine and one point on your driver’s license. It should make for a strong deterrent as Georgia follows the lead of other states. Nearly half the states in the country have some sort of ban, with Vermont, Wisconsin and Michigan enacting bans earlier this year.

The National Safety Council estimates that nearly 30 percent of crashes — about 1.6 million annually — are caused by drivers talking or texting on cell phones. A study published by University of Utah psychologists earlier this year determined that drivers’ reaction times are 30 percent longer when reading texts and 9 percent longer when talking on a cell phone compared to when just driving.

Though the dangers of texting or checking e-mail while driving are obvious, it hasn’t stopped large numbers of drivers from doing it. We think these new laws, and the penalties that go with them, will be a welcome deterrent.