Stricter Enforcement of Texting While Driving

February 7, 2017
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In 2009 alone, 448,000 people were injured in car accidents from a distracted driver.  According to a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,474 of these people were killed (Facts).  The official US Department of Transportation says that “because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction”(Facts).  Experts are comparing texting while driving to driving under the influence; they say using a phone while driving is like driving legally intoxicated (Infobase).  Why would someone, aware of all the risks, put themselves or others in such danger?  No one wants to risk the lives of themselves or their loved ones, yet the government continues to disregard the need for stricter regulation of the law.  In a poll done by AAA Foundation for Traffic and Safety, 47% of the respondents admitted to texting while driving (Infobase).  Half the country is continuing to put their lives in danger when there is a simple solution to the issue at hand.  Laws on texting while driving should be enforced more severely in every state because texting while driving is a lethal distraction, awareness for the seriousness of the issue is inefficient, and stricter rules have proven to be more effective.

As the number one cause of death in teenagers, texting while driving is a fatal distraction.  Distractions are separated into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive.  Visual distractions are those that involve drivers taking their eyes off the road; manual distractions force drivers to take their hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions make drivers take their mind off of driving.  Texting qualifies as all three (Distracted).  According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, about eighteen percent of crashes in 2013 involving injuries was due to distracted driving (Distracted).  This means that about one in every five of the occurring accidents could have been avoided by enforcing stricter laws.  Teenagers are extremely susceptible to texting while driving.   In a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the US Department of Transportation, “Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes” (National).  All the deaths resulting from texting while driving, a lethal distraction, could have easily been avoided through a harsher enforcement of laws put in place to discourage such incoherent behavior.
As people still continue to multitask despite the consequences, the awareness for the seriousness of the issue is inefficient.  Research done by the University of Michigan says that “texting presents a high risk to drivers and pedestrians because cell phones offer users many options to occupy their time and many cognitive triggers that cue their use automatically, oftentimes with little awareness of what they are doing” (Lack).  People are simply attracted to cell phones, and combined with their unawareness of the level of danger of texting while driving, they continue to multitask.  People seem to underestimate the danger of texting while driving.  It will never happen to you, right?  In a study done by the DMV, more than twenty five percent of the 1400 respondents admitted to texting and driving at least once a month (Most).  Their reasoning behind it-- that nothing could actually happen to them since texting while driving is not very dangerous, right? Wrong.  Texting while driving is being compared to an alcohol level of .08, meaning that distracted driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. According to the study done by the DMV, sixty percent of people were unaware of the dangers and penalties for texting while driving in their communities (Most).  Therefore, a stricter enforcement of rules is necessary because the people continue to text while driving because of their unawareness for the dangers of texting while driving.

With different states enforcing different consequences, stricter rules have been proven to be more effective.  States’ consequences range from a minimal fine to a stay in jail.  This variety in the severity of the consequences serves as a valid opportunity for comparison.  In California the punishment for texting while driving is very slight with the first offense being a fine of twenty dollars and the second offense, a fine of fifty dollars (California).   In Utah the punishment for a first offense of texting while driving is a seven hundred dollar fine and the second offense is a three month stay in jail (Infobase).  Obviously the extent of the punishment established in each law is extremely different, and so were the repercussions.  According to the 2012 Utah Crash Summary Report, after the implementation of the law traffic deaths were at a lowest total in Utah since 1974 (Infobase).  However in California, in the single month of April, the average number of drivers ticketed for texting while driving nearly doubled even after the law was set in place.  The severity of the law in Utah resulted in a decrease of texting and driving while the mildness of the law in California actually culminated more texting while driving.  Stricter rules have been proven to work more effectively, specifically in the case of Utah and California, and should, therefore, be enforced in all states.

Despite the benefits to a stricter enforcement of texting while driving laws, there are also drawbacks.  Actual enforcement of texting while driving laws is often considered very difficult; for example, the issuing of citations is very tough.  There are two main ways that these citations are typically issues: an officer witnesses the driver texting while driving or the driver volunteers the information themselves.  However, if an officer pulls over a car for texting while driving and the drivers claims to have been using his or her phone for other purposes, the driver is likely to get away with it.  Therefore, an essential part of the enforcement of the current texting while driving rules is voluntary compliance. But who would want to throw themselves under the bus?  Another method is that officers can request access to phone records; however, this option is only used in the case of a serious accident meaning that it is not a plausible technique of enforcement (Enforcement).  How can enforcement be made easier?  The government can ban all use of cell phones behind the wheel whether it be texting or calling.  This way the reliance on voluntary compliance reduces and enforcement becomes easier for cops. 

No one wants to risk their lives.  No one wants to put the lives of others in danger.  Texting while driving is a fatal distraction that can easily be averted.  The lack of awareness for the dangers of texting while driving can easily be resolved through a stricter enforcement of laws pertaining to texting while driving, which has been proven to work more effectively.  Harsher laws must be enforced to evade this issue.  Contact your state legislators and tell them you support a stricter, more severe enforcement of these laws.  You can help make a difference in the community and abolish the dangers of texting while driving.

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