The non-uniformed laws and lax rhetoric about the dangers of texting and driving has lead to an ignorance that extends far beyond driver’s teen years.
In the 21st century, we are obsessed with sharing at the speed of a text or a Snapchat story upload.
When our phones are always in our pocket, we expect responses and reactions immediately, which causes us to look at our phones when we know we shouldn’t--- like when we’re driving.
It seems as if more people follow the unwritten rules of social media platform postings, than the very real, written laws against cellphone use while driving in the United States.
A total of 15 states ban all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving. These states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.
While no state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, 38 states (including D.C.) forbid amateur drivers from using their cellphones while driving. Amateur drivers typically include a licensed individual under the age of 21 or under the age of 18.
States with amatear driving laws include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Most importantly, 47 states (including D.C.) have made it illegal for all drivers to text while driving. Out of these states, all but 5 states have primary enforcement, which means a police officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place first. The 5 states without primary enforcement include Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota.
With these specific laws in place, 94% of teen drivers do acknowledge the real dangers of texting and driving, and yet 35% admit to doing it anyway, according to an AAA poll.
In addition, 77% of young drivers believe they can drive safely while texting while 55% of young drivers believe it’s easy to text while driving.
It seems that texting and driving laws fall on deaf ears. Maybe due to the fact that people think that laws will only affect them once they’re caught and they don’t believe they’ll ever get caught.
This way of thinking immediately ceases once someone is caught texting and driving by a police officer or has been in a serious crash due to distracted driving.
In states where it’s illegal for minors to use a cellphone while driving, penalties can range from monetary fines, criminal charges, jail time, points on their driving record, and possible license suspension.
The non-uniformed laws and lax rhetoric across the United States about the dangers of texting and driving has lead to an ignorance that extends far beyond driver’s teenage years.
And tech's addictive appeal isn’t exclusive to young age groups either, with 98% of adults age 30 to 64 owning a cellphone.
When children and teens see their parents or other adults on their phone while driving, it creates the illusion that it’s a safe practice for experienced and skilled drivers.
According to the Pew Research Center, studies have shown that 48% of young drivers have seen their parents driving while talking on a cell phone, compared to 15% who have seen their parents texting while driving.
Outside of their family, 48% of children aged 12 to 17 have been a passenger in a car where the driver was texting while driving.
Ironically the numbers are less when adults are asked directly about their driving habits. In the American population, 27% of adults have admitted to talking or texting on their cell phone while operating a vehicle.
While it’s important for state governments to hold a zero tolerance stance against distracted driving, it’s even more important for each individual to hold themselves and their passengers responsible for putting away the phone and lowering the 1.6 million crashes a year that occur due to cell phone use behind the wheel.
Luckily for adult and teen drivers alike, there are many free tools to use to put an end to your distracted driving habits.
The most recent being Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature on the iOS 11 update. The new feature detects when you and your phone are in motion and will prompt you to shut down all notifications until you reach your destination.
There are also third party mobile apps, such as DriveOFF or AT&T’s Drive Mode for Android and Blackberry, which can block notifications and keep your from accessing your phone if you’re traveling at a certain speed.
More traditional ways of keeping distraction free behind the wheel include dashcams which monitor a driver’s activities and provides real time video feedback or something as simple as taking the text-free driving pledge with your family at itcanwait.com.
Whatever method drivers want to use to stay off their phones, they need to be adopted sooner rather than later.
Since the introduction of the smartphone, distracted driving fatalities have been steadily on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that deaths caused by distraction-related car crashes increased by 8.8%. That’s a total of 3,477 deaths in one year, 280 more than the year before.
These numbers will continue to rise unless drivers take responsibility for themselves when behind the wheel.