Time for a Federal Law Against Texting and Driving?

Consumer protection, Rights

texing and drivingMore teenagers in the U.S. die as a result of texting while driving than from driving drunk. Laws regarding distracted driving are left up to the states now, but is that enough?

Texting and Driving Kills

A study from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of NY found that 3,000 teens die from while texting driving compared to 2,700 dead from driving under the influence. Texting while driving also accounts for 300,000 injuries, compared to 282,000 injuries from drunk driving. Of course teens aren’t the only ones to die or sustain injuries. Some studies show that adults are even more likely than teens to text while driving.

Texting makes the driver up to 23 times more likely to crash, in large part because drivers take their eyes off the road for several seconds at a time. For comparison, being legally drunk driving adds about 4 feet to a driver’s stopping distance; texting adds 70 feet. The data for 2010 traffic accidents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that a full 18% of accidents involved distracted driving. Part of the reason for the increased danger is the fact that drivers are more likely to be on their phones throughout the day than to be drunk.

Technology addressing this problem may help. Several apps are now available that use your phone’s GPS information to determine the phone’s speed and limit the phone’s functions. Parents have the option of installing some of these on their teens’ phones for peace of mind. Better phone-car integration, including more voice-to-text programs. are becoming more widely available all the time. Being relatively new, they are not bug-free and can still be distracting to drivers.

Laws Regarding Texting While Driving Vary State to State

Only 11 states plus Washington, D.C. have outlawed the use of hand-held cell phones entirely while operating a vehicle. Law enforcement officers can pull over drivers they see on their phones even if they haven’t violated any other traffic regulations.

Nearly every state restricts texting to some degree. Some states restrict only school bus drivers; but 40 states ban texting for all drivers. A handful of states don’t allow localities that have passed similar laws to enforce them, making the situation even more difficult.

Death and injury are not the only consequences of texting and driving. A driver responsible for the death of someone else from texting while driving can be charged with Criminal Vehicular Homicide and go to jail. All states with texting laws stipulate a fine, and some add points to a driver’s license, even if no injury results.

Where Does the Federal Government Come In?

No laws have been passed at the federal level to address the issue of texting while driving, but President Obama took a step in that direction in 2009 when he signed an Executive Order forbidding federal employees from texting while driving government-owned vehicles. The following year, the Department of Transportation banned texting while driving for bus drivers and truck drivers.

State-level restrictions on texting and driving will have to do for now, and it’s hoped as technology improves the number of accidents will go down. Ultimately, drivers have to decide for themselves not to text because they know the dangers. Dozens of groups have posted online pledges not to text and drive.