Texting while driving falls into the category of distracted driving and is a leading cause of injuries and fatalities from driver-related accidents. The tragedy is not only in the number of injured, or the number of deaths but also the fact that statistics demonstrate that it is teenagers and young adults who are a large part of the drivers involved in this issue. Such as the heartbreaking story of a college-aged daughter who will never return home for holidays or family visits, the victim of a distracted driver. Various statistics show that cell phones are a dangerous tool when used during the operation of a motor vehicle. Motor vehicle safety is not only an issue for politicians and lawmakers, it involves various government institutions while one key issue is distracted drivers, and one major deadly and dangerous distraction is texting which is an age-related problem with inconsistent state laws and variable bans.
One government agency which is involved in Motor Vehicle Safety, from a health and safety standpoint, is The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which dedicates one section of the website to vehicle safety. Three specific items listed as causes for distracted driving are visual, manual, and cognitive, the visual is eyes off the road, manual is hands off the wheel, and cognitive is mind off of driving (2017), and texting while driving involves all three of these main distraction issues. It is a reality to state that when a driver is visually distracted for five-seconds while traveling 55 mph it is “like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed” (Currin 2017), and texting involves not just visual but all three areas.
A number of studies indicate that texting while driving is one issue that is more relevant to a specific age known as a teenager or young adult. It is not only the injuries and deaths that affect their lives it is also about a loss of freedom. In Utah, if a driver is held responsible for texting, and someone dies they can be charged with criminal vehicular homicide, ultimately facing prison if found guilty, all because of a text. On research study indicated that “primarily enforced texting laws are associated with fatality reductions among younger individuals” (Ferdinand, 1375). While this problem is not strictly age-related, it was noted in a different study that it is a larger percentage of young adults and teenagers who text while driving, actually higher than other age groups.
Another main issue with texting while driving is that there is no consistent law throughout the United States that bans cellular phone use. Some states ban hand-held usage, some ban any cellular usage, some ban text messaging, and some ban a variety of usages on an age-related basis. For example, “Missouri prohibits text messaging by novice or teen drivers” (Essex, 2017) alternatively, some states do not allow school bus drivers to use cellular phones at all, and President Obama issued a regulation regarding Federal Employees usage of government cellular phones.
While many support a ban on text messaging while driving there are still opponents to a ban and include several reasons. One example is in the state of Texas where they have been unable to get a state-wide consensus due to “Senate’s “freedom caucus” of libertarian-minded Republicans was the heart of the opposition in 2015” (Wear, 2017). Another is the fact that it continues to be debated as to how difficult it would be to enforce the law once enacted, due to the difficulty of proving someone is texting unless absolutely caught. Unlike a sobriety test, there is no way to prove at that particular moment someone was texting, however, cellular phone records have been used in order to prosecute a case where a distracted driver accident occurred and the records were used as evidence. Yet another reason opponents to the ban use was the fact that one study revealed that “texting bans were associated with increased collision claims. They speculated that this increase might be due to drivers hiding their phones from view to avoid fines” (Ferdinand, 1370) which then visually distracted the driver even more than before the ban.
Personal freedom is important, enforcing a law can be difficult, and people trying to hide their texting does cause further problems, however preventing death and serious injuries are also significantly crucial to everyone’s life. While it is unlikely that every state would agree to the same ban on texting, and it is also unlikely that a Federal law could be instituted to ban texting there are alternative programs to assist in promoting prevention and supporting non-usage as an option. For instance, the “NHTSA leads the fight nationally against distracted driving by educating Americans” (Currin, 2017) through various forms of social media and the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” program. Peer programs are key in creating an understanding with young adults so it is not just a matter of one more thing that they are not allowed to do but instead it is one more thing that they can do to save a life. Statistics demonstrate that in 2010 there were 3,092 Distracted Driving Deaths and 416,000 Distracted Driving Injuries, in 2015 it increased to 3,477 Distracted Driving Deaths with a small decrease to 391,000 in Distracted Driving Injuries, (“Motor Vehicle Safety” 2017). Further solutions can and must be instituted to prevent further tragedies. Distracted drivers are a danger and texting is a major distraction, every must make motor vehicle safety a concern for all, not just politicians but also involve more government institutions, deter distracted drivers by changing the law in each and every state to be more consistent and less variable and ultimately life-saving.
- Currin, Andrew. “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), United States Department of Transportation, 22 Sept. 2017, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.
- Essex, Amanda. “Cellular Phone Use and Texting While Driving Laws.” NCSL (National Conference of State Legislators), 23 June 2017, http://tinyurl.com/y9pkrmeq Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.
- Ferdinand, Alva O., et al. “Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 104, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1370-7, Family Health Database; Health & Medical Collection. http://tinyurl.com/y9n3k6zw. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017
- “Motor Vehicle Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 June 2017, www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.
- Wear, Ben. “Senate panel OKs texting-While-Driving ban, but opposition remains.” American Statesman, 13 Mar. 2017, http://tinyurl.com/ycjnglz2. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.
- Wilson, Fernando A., PhD., and Jim P. Stimpson. “Trends in Fatalities from Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 100, no. 11, 2010, pp. 2213-9, Family Health Database; Health & Medical Collection, http://tinyurl.com/yby3x5k7. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017