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Police can stop drivers only for primary offenses, such as speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign.

Distracted driving accounts for 80 percent of accidents, according to a study published last year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency found that drivers are three times more likely to crash when text messaging.

“The evidence is mounting at how dangerous this is, no matter what age you are,” Mr. Townsend said. “We’ve got to go back to driving in such a way that driving is our total focus.”