Mobile phones are a constant in today’s society, helping us organize, communicate, and control our entire lives. Because of this, almost everyone is guilty of checking the phone while driving, and it seems incredibly natural to do so–but it can have devastating consequences that lawmakers are tackling and resulting restrictions that are being refined and added every day. In the past decade, accidents from texting while driving, in particular, have become an alarmingly familiar story; states have gone so far as to enact “Distracted Driving” laws, and for good reason. Below you’ll find the facts on the real effects of texting while driving, and the progressing steps being taken to address this legally across the nation.
Accidents from Texting While Driving
It’s not a new fact that texting and driving is dangerous, but the extent may not be fully comprehended by all. In fact, a full three years ago, a study found that texting and driving surpassed drinking and driving to become the leading cause of vehicular deaths among teenagers. Yet, 77% of young adults say they feel they can safely text while driving. In one recent well known, nationally spread case, Minnesota teen Carlee Rose Bollig hit and killed a father and his young daughter while texting and speeding through a stoplight. She has since pled guilty to criminal vehicular homicide.
Ashley Zumbrunnen, a young woman in Boise, Idaho, drifted out of her lane while texting her husband, and is now partially paralyzed from the resulting crash. Today she is a supporter of the Just Drive campaign.
In Minnesota alone, one out of every four car crashes is a direct result of distracted driving, significantly raising the state’s injuries and deaths per year. In America in 2014, over 400,000 injuries resulted from distracted-driving crashes, and the use of mobile devices only continues to grow. Today, distracted driving causes over 1,100 injuries per day in the United States. This practice is dangerous for the fact that your brain isn’t fully focused on the road–meaning that even hands-free components aren’t totally safe–but even worse than that, when you need your hands and eyes both for an activity (like texting), you’re prevented from multiple ways in which you need to be controlling a vehicle, rendering yourself essentially handicapped. In fact, experts now say that when you text and drive, your eyes leave the road for an average of five seconds–which, at high enough speeds (over 55 miles per hour), is enough to cover an entire football field, all without vision and limited hand use. Given this knowledge, it’s easy to understand just how prevalent accidents are when drivers text, as they’re truly up against a self-imposed obstacle.
Texting while driving is an especially major problem for drivers under the age of 20; in 2013, a study found that two out of five students admitted to texting while driving in one thirty-day period, and today, forty percent of United States teenagers have said they’ve been in a car while someone used a cell phone in a dangerous manner. A recent AAA study found that 23% of teens not only admitted to texting while driving, but to doing it frequently, greatly increasing their own chances of accidents. Unfortunately, with time and the rise of app popularity, these numbers continue to increase. Now, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and more can be added to the list of deadly distractions behind the wheel, and The Chicago Tribune reported this year that in recent accidents, a full two-thirds of drivers were distracted in the moments before.
The Legal Implications of Texting while Driving
Lawmakers have become increasingly aware of the dangers of a group of behaviors in behind the wheel classified as “distracted driving.” This includes texting, talking, and surfing the web. It can even include eating or other activities that require user attention to complete. In 2007, Washington state became the first to ban texting while driving, and now forty-six states ban the practice. This includes Minnesota, where it’s illegal to read or create a text or an email or to access the Internet via phone while driving (even when momentarily stopped). Here, police can record the occurrence of distracted driving after an accidents.
A group of about fourteen states outlaw even hand-held cell phones, but this is not universal yet, and there does not yet exist a national ban on texting while driving. Some states, however, do have an all-out ban on cell phones for drivers, while others segment these bans to specifically apply to bus drivers (as in Minnesota) or novice drivers (who have less than 6 months’ time with a drivers’ license).
As technology evolves, so does the interest of others to decrease its potential for danger on the road. A new and controversial New York bill proposes the use of “textalyzers” for police on drivers’ phones after a crash, to more accurately assess if the driver was texting prior. It would be the first such use of a textalyzer, but likely not the last.
Texting and driving has already shown to have devastating consequences that will continue to impact drivers and passengers on the road without new regulations and laws in place. As lawmakers put regional restrictions together, understand them. When driving, be aware of your rights in the car, or what you shouldn’t be doing, and be aware of your ability to focus. For more information on the dangers of texting while driving, and the laws associated, don’t hesitate to contact us today.