Last week, a coalition of safety chiefs from all across the country convened to discuss ways to reduce the steadily rising number of deaths and injuries in car crashes caused by cell phone use. This group, the Governors Highway Safety Association, caries some serious clout. Each member is the chief safety officer of his/her respective state.
While some states have enacted laws to curb the use of cell phones, most states have been hesitant to take action because of legislative fears from a public outcry. The statistics are beyond shocking:
2,600 people are killed each year as a result of using cellphones while driving. estimates are that another 330,000 are injured.
21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as 4% every year.
Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents. Source: the National Safety Counsel
4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.
Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.
Many auto safety experts and safety advocate organizations support a complete ban. Opponents argue that bans like this are really just a publicity stunt by politicians because enforcing such laws is all but impossible. A ban on hand-held use could be the first step toward what safety advocates argue is the real solution: a ban on any cellphone use in moving vehicles. Numerous studies have shown that requiring drivers to use hands-free devices to talk on their cellphones does very little to decrease the distraction caused by a conversation. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) last year supported a total ban on using mobile devices to hold conversations or send text messages while driving.
In the 30 states that have ready banned texting while driving, there has been little done in the way of enforcement, but the laws themselves have certainly increased the buzz about the subject, and the increased conversation on the topic may be having a positive impact on younger drivers. Of course, the high number of teen deaths caused by this national pass-time has also increased the public's attention on this deadly activity.
This author does not know whether an outright ban is the ultimate answer, but something more needs to be done in the enforcement area. Either law enforcement officers need to do a lot more toward catching violators, or the penalty for violation needs to be drastic and severe, perhaps the same as drunk driving. Without increased enforcement, this move by the Governors' Association is just another political statement that does little toward finding a real solution.
At Davis Law Group, we see many tragic accidents caused by distracted drivers. Please do your part to educate the younger drivers in your family to avoid all cell phone use while behind the wheel, and also do your part to set a good example - stop using your cell phone while driving. Be safe out there!