Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws that make it illegal to text while driving. Six others forbid new drivers from texting behind the wheel.
But that doesn't stop drivers from doing it — and enforcing those laws can be difficult.
On a highway north of New York City, state Trooper Clayton Howell is in an unmarked SUV. He's looking for drivers who are texting or using hand-held phones, which is banned in New York, along with 11 other states.
Even if you're a pro, it can be really tricky to spot someone on a cellphone. State police have been using these unmarked SUVs to try to catch drivers.
"You can see down into the car," Howell explains. "It's a bird's-eye view as opposed to being at the same level."
He sees one driver who looks like she's on her phone.
"See, I pulled right along next to her. She looked at me. And you can see now, no directional [signal]," he says. "Because it was in her right hand, and because I didn't actually physically see the phone, I'm going to give her a break."
People know it's dangerous to use phones while they drive. They know it's illegal. And they still do it anyway.
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee economics professor Scott Adams and a colleague looked at what happens when states pass texting and driving laws.
It turns out, people stop texting and driving for a little while — and then they start doing it again pretty quickly.
"What we saw was that there was an initial decline in accidents once texting bans were passed. That was quite substantial," Adams says. "But after a few months, there was no effect."
Adams thinks it's partly because the consequences for getting caught are often pretty light. In some states, the police can't even pull you over unless you're doing something else wrong, like not using your turn signal.
In New York, you can get pulled over for cellphone violations, but the fines start at only $50. You do get five points on your license, but it takes 11 points before your license is suspended.
Drunk driving in New York, on the other hand, will cost you at least $500, and your license is automatically revoked for at least six months.
Arthur Goodwin, who studies distracted driving at the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina, says that decades ago, drunk driving was also essentially ignored by the public.
Then states started imposing harsher penalties. They made it clear that people who did it would be caught. Now, there's a real stigma.
"There isn't anything like that yet for cellphones, but at some point, society may frown on people who use cellphones while driving, just the way we do with drinking and drivers," Goodwin says.
Back on the highway in New York, Howell is chasing down those distracted drivers.
"Now look at her driving on the dotted line there," he says. "Now she's actually coming into my lane, no directional, engaged in her phone call."
He turns on the siren and pulls her over. "May I see your license and registration, please? Who were you talking to, miss?"
The driver is a young woman who says she had been talking to her mother — telling her she would call back later. She's crying.
"I'm going to issue you a citation for operating a motor vehicle while using your mobile phone, OK?" Howell says.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that at any given time, more than 650,000 people are using their cellphones while they drive.
This one just got caught.
We all listen to music differently. What we hear is shaded by our history, our knowledge, our equipment, our mood, our taste. But every year there are moments when everybody who lives and breathes hip-hop is talking about the same thing.
In June, when Jay's Samsung/Magna Carta Holy Grail ad aired during game 5 of the NBA Finals. A Thursday in April when Pusha T's "Numbers on the Boards" dropped. A Friday night in May, when Kanye's face appeared on buildings all over the country. The middle of September, when Drake's Nothing Was the Same leaked. The evening in August when Funkmaster Flex dropped — complete with bomb sound — Kendrick Lamar's verse on Big Sean's "Control."
For this episode of Microphone Check co-hosts Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley are joined by their social media manager, Cedric Shine. All three of them experienced those disruptions differently — and their opinions of both their meaning and the quality of the music at their root are not unanimous. The conversation ranges from Ali's inside track on Magna Carta to Troy Ave, ASAP Ferg, music journalism's involvement in Kanye's year and how the quality of life in New York City is affecting the music being made there.
France has sent troops to the Central African Republic after violence there flared between Muslim and Christian militias amid reports that the death toll from fighting had reached 280.
The Associated Press reports:
"[Mostly] Muslim armed fighters who have ruled the country since March hunted door-to-door for their enemies. Bodies lay decomposing along the roads in a capital [Bangui] too dangerous for many to collect the corpses."
Reuters says the former French colony
"has slipped into chaos since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March, leading to tit-for-tat violence with 'anti-Balaka' militia formed by the Christian majority. The violence that began on Thursday was the worst the capital has seen during the crisis."
Hundreds of soldiers began arriving from neighboring countries after Paris gave the go ahead for the mission, Reuters says.
The news agency quotes a resident in the PK12 neighborhood of the CAR capital as saying Seleka fighters were going "door to door."
The 91st National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is underway at President's Park in Washington, D.C., with the president and first lady scheduled to attend along with celebrity performances from Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and others.
The ceremony is shaping up to be a wet one, with light rain. You can watch the festivities here or follow on Twitter at #nctl2013:
The annual event, which has been tradition since President Calvin Coolidge performed the first lighting in 1923, is expected to draw some 17,000 people.