Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States. Even Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood agrees with that assessment.
Distracted Driving Statistics Behind the Epidemic
A recent poll indicates that 660,000 Americans admit to driving while distracted during daylight hours. As Chicago Tribune columnist Ronald H. White noted, that’s more than the entire population of Baltimore.
From 2010-2012, the number of distracted drivers did not diminish. This is in spite of changes to the laws of 39 states making it illegal to text while driving.
Nine states actually ban all hand-held cell phone use. Jeff Larson, president of the Safe Road Alliance, believes that curbing texting while driving is going to be more difficult than enforcing seat belt or drunk driving laws. He further notes that in 2011 almost 3,300 people died in cars while texting and approximately 387,000 injured themselves and others the same way.
If a driver averts his or her eyes from the road to answer or send a text message, his or her car would travel more than a city block at highway speed. During this time, the driver would be essentially blind since he or she would be focused on the phone and not the road.
As Larson points out, no one would close his or her eyes voluntarily while driving for any appreciable amount of time, so why would they distract themselves with mobile devices behind the wheel?
Possible Solutions to the Distracted Driving Epidemic
Both White and Larson agree that uniform, nationwide laws are a necessary first step in stopping this menace to society.
This would make violators in all 50 states, not just nine, easier to spot than if there were no uniform law. According to both of them, the law should unequivocally be: If a driver uses a cell phone at all while driving, it is illegal.
Until such time as a national law is passed curtailing distracted driving, the United States Department of Transportation recommends the following:
- Turn off all handheld devices before starting the car.
- Be proactive, and be a good role model for younger drivers.
- Talk to your teen children about safe, responsible driving
- Speak up when the driver of the car in which you are a passenger begins to use a phone.
- Always wear seat belts. It is the best way to protect oneself from unsafe drivers.
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