Kansas has recently become the 26th state to adopt a “no texting while driving” law. Until January 1, 2011, drivers will receive a warning if they are caught texting while driving and after that, law enforcement officials will issue $60 fines for the offense.
So important has this issue become, that President Obama, even, issued an Executive Order in October 2009 that prohibits federal employees from texting while operation government-owned vehicles and equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has gone one step further and used this Executive Order to develop sample legislation that states can use to draft their own laws to ban texting.
According to the USDOT’s website on distracted driving, some distractions are no-brainers. Watching a video – yes, highly distracting while driving. But even eating or talking to a fellow passenger is considered distracted driving and a can result in an accident. However, it’s the use of cell phones that seem to be the more serious distractions per the following, as listed on the distracted driving website:
- Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. (Source: Carnegie Mellon)
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
Earlier this year, CNN reported a study that showed that cell phone bans do not actually reduce crashes. In a recent, informal online poll, people are pretty much fifty-fifty on texting despite a law (with financial consequences) banning it. This is shocking despite the data to support a direct link between cell phone usage and accidents – just look at the National Safety Council’s findings.
Technological advances have changed consumer behavior and not always for the good. Case in point – the poll mentioned earlier, where over 50 percent of respondents admitted to continue testing while driving despite a law banning it. It’s not enough that we have to have the technology but we must be able to utilize it wherever and whenever we want. Addressing the texting while driving issue is not just about changing the laws – which is definitely a step in the right direction. But it’s also about changing a culture we have become accustomed to.