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Texting? Watch Out For Overpasses

The new highway appropriations law has other incentives for states that implement a full array of changes, escalating fines for repeat offenders and making distracted driving part of the driver's license exam.

But I can't help myself

How common is texting these days? David Thomas at Cars.com used a few hidden cameras on his daily commute -- and the results are shocking.

It's not like drivers don't know the dangers. A recent AAA poll found 94 percent of Pennsylvania drivers consider texting while driving a serious threat -- and that 35 percent admitted reading a text or e-mail while driving in the last month.

In June 2011, over 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S., up nearly 50 percent from June 2009, according to CTIA. Experts say that almost 80 percent of car crashes involve some type of driver inattention within 3 seconds of the crash.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood refers to distracted driving as a "national epidemic" and has called for a federal law banning talking on a cellphone or texting while driving.

Maybe even more technology can help.

A raft of apps and devices has hit the market, enabling those low on will power to avoid temptation. Most of them lock the driver out of a cellphone's texting, e-mail and Web functions; others can redirect incoming texts and calls as well.

TextBuster and Key2SafeDriving, for example, use a device that plugs into the car's onboard diagnostics port and communicates via Bluetooth with an application on the phone. Drivers can still make hands-free calls. (See " Please make me stop texting.")

The devices cost $100 to $200.

A ticket, or a Ticket?

In many states, a texting ticket is a misdemeanor that won't even reach your motor vehicle record. That doesn't mean the ticket is cheap; in California, with fees and court costs, a texting citation can cost $336. It does mean your insurance company won't see the black mark and raise your rates as a result. (See " Tickets that don't raise your insurance rates.")

In increasing number of states -- Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming among them -- are handling texting tickets as moving violations that are reported to the department of motor vehicles and thus to your insurer.

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