“No One is an Expert at Distracted Driving.”
The cellphone (smartphone) has forever changed the world in which we live in and the way we view life today. It’s often the first thing we see when we wake up and the last item we see before we go to bed. It doesn’t matter where we are or whom we’re with, our cellphones are always with us. Cellphones have created a world where it is impossible to envision a world without them. We use our cellphones to help us navigate our roads and highways, report traffic accidents and public disturbances, conduct business and stay connected to family, friends an colleagues at any given time. There are so many advantages to owning a cellphone; however driving while using one isn’t one of them. According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year and nearly 330,000 injuries a year from accidents caused by texting (“Statistics,” n.d., p. 1).
As of the time of this report only fourteen states within the U.S. have banned the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, whereas forty-six states have banned texting while driving. While no state has unconditionally banned the use of cellphones for all drivers, thirty-eight states, including the District of Columbia have at least banned its use by novice drivers (Governors Highway Safety Association , 2015, p. 1). While it appears that many states have different interpretations of the laws governing the use of mobile devices while driving, statistics clearly suggest that the laws governing the use of cellphones while driving needs to be standardized to include a nationwide ban on cellphone usage while driving. Many drivers believe that they multitask between driving and talking on their cellphones, however the reality is that they can’t. Driving and talking on a cellphone are two distinct thinking tasks. So instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches between two cognitive activities (National Safety Council , n.d., p. 1). So clearly, “No One is an Expert at Distracted Driving.”
As the cellphone industry continues to grow and cellphones become more advanced, so does the problems associated with using them while driving a motor vehicle. Technology plays a large role in Americans’ lives, as is clear by the number of individuals who now own cellphones. The low cost of ownership and ease of portability has cause cellphone sales to grow exponentially. Each year the cellphone industry grows larger, with its estimated total customers reaching over 270 million just in the United States. Not only has the number of Americans using cellphones significantly increased in recent years, but the number of cellphone users utilizing the text message feature on their phones increased by approximately 160 percent.
Today’s cellphones have many features and almost unlimited capabilities. One of the biggest advances in cellphone technology was its ability to connect it to the Internet. This capability alone, single-handedly redefined what the cellphone would ultimately become, and helped to usher in our unhealthy obsession with the device. Unfortunately this increase in functionality created more distractions for the user. At any given time throughout the day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile (“Statistics,” n.d., p. 1). The National Safety Council estimates that 80% of Americans admit to using cellphones, and 20% admit to texting, while driving. That amounts to nearly 100 million drivers. Drivers using handheld devices are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash serious enough to cause injury. This causes a serious risk to the public.
Driving while using a cellphone has been compared to Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It should also be noted that the impaired driver is eleven times more likely to be involved in a car accident while intoxicated. According to studies a driver that is texting or talking on the phone while driving is twenty-three times as likely to be involved in a car accident (Institute for Public Policy Studies University of Denver, 2014, p. 9). So it appears that drivers who drive while distracted by a cellphone are twice as likely to be involved in an accident as drunk drivers. In all states, first-offense DUI or DWI is classified as a misdemeanor, and punishable by up to six months in jail. Subsequent offenses often result in jail sentences of several months to a year and for a DUI or DWI that ‘s been classified as a felony — either because the driver killed or injured someone or because it ‘s the driver ‘s third or fourth DUI — jail sentences of several years are not uncommon. Why shouldn’t this type of punishment include drivers arrested for driving while talking on a cellphone or texting?
Text messaging has become a serious distraction to the average driver. According the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Eleven percent of driver’s aged 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed (Federal Communications Commission , n.d., p. 1).” 44 states have banned texting while driving. According to the Don’t Text and Drive website, “those who drive while reading or sending a text message are 23 percent more likely to be involved in a car crash than someone who does not” (Parkview Trauma Centers, n.d., p. 1). I don’t understand why anyone would risk it. We all know that driving while texting or driving while distracted is dangerous, yet we do anyhow. Why are we playing Russian roulette with our lives? A crash typically occurs an average of three to five seconds after a driver becomes distracted. Nearly 2 out of 10 drivers (18%) report that they have sent text messages or e-mails while driving. More than half believe that using a cellphone to send text messages or e-mails won’t affect their driving performance (Tison, Chaudhary, & Cosgrove, 2011, p. i), however drivers who are distracted for only 5 seconds, traveling in a car at 55 mph will travel a distance of 360 feet or the equivalent of a football field before they realized they’re distracted. Imagine what could happen in that amount of time or distance? You wouldn’t know what happened until AFTER it happened! In 2012 over 3,092 people were killed from texting and driving! 87% of teens think that driving and texting is dangerous. Yet 80% of teenage girls and 58% of teenage boys admitted to texting and driving! Texting while driving can kill (Lott, 2012).
No one is taking enforcement of the law seriously. Only 14 states have a ban on hand-held cellphones, and even thought 46 states have a ban on texting while driving, no state bans all cellphones for all drivers (Governors Highway Safety Association , 2015, p. 1). However, even with that said, we still need enforcement of the current bans in place. Matt Sedensky, of the Huffington Post (2011, p1) writes that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) not only wants to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, but hands-free devices as well. However, according to law enforcement, “it would be nearly impossible to determine if someone was talking on a phone or exercising their vocal cords,” says Capt. Donald Melanson of the West Hartford, Conn., Police Department. (Sedensky, 2011, p. 1). Drivers who wearing a hand-free device could appear to be talking on the phone, but could actually be talking to passengers in the vehicle. There are simply to many variables in play. If the NTSBs recommendation is adopted how will it address the following like chauffeurs and traveling salesmen, or Amber or Silver alerts where the public is asked to report specific vehicles if they are spotted. What about those, “How is my Driving” bumper stickers that are plastered on the back of most business vehicles? Federal and local agencies have a daunting task ahead of them. To create enforceable laws that not only address safety concerns but is flexible enough that the public doesn’t ignore them altogether (Sedensky, 2011, p. 1).