Technology Collides: Why Texting and Driving Don’t Mix
In today’s society, people have become entirely dependent on their cell phones. Cell phones have many useful techniques that allow communication to be simple and reliable. With phones comes the capability of sending SMS messages, which are commonly known as “texting”. Texting has become a worldwide function that assists interactions and makes them run smoothly. Unfortunately, recently, texting and driving has become an even more worldwide function that is turning into a nightmare. As a UN Ambassador Samantha Powers states, “Worldwide, 6/7 people have access to a cell phone and more than a billion cars are on the road. While drinking is episodic, usage of hand-held devices are chronic. No one should ever die-or be killed-because of a text message”(“US Pushes”). Although there are always going to be “freak accidents” that we as people can’t control, texting and driving is just another epidemic that requires immediate attention to the public. It needs assistance to outlaw and prohibit texting and driving all together.
On a recent survey taken by Psychology Today, 97% of teens say that it’s wrong to text and drive. Of those same people, 43% of them still continue to do it (Lohmann). In another similar survey regarding texting while driving, 91.5% of the interviewees say they consider it dangerous. But 2/3 of those people still text and drive (Hanes “New Drunk Driving”). These statements are just some examples of how hypocritical people can be. These stats present a news flash; most people between the ages of 15-35 text and drive, even after they say how dangerous it is. Another stat that requires attention is the “parental fact”. In the same survey, these teens say they have watched their parents text and drive but have never said anything to stop them.(Lohmann) They admit to being a little nervous when the driver was texting, which is completely normal. However, these teenagers persist on doing it themselves. With “texting being the most dangerous activity for drivers because it involves taking your eyes and attention off the road”, it needs to come to an end. (Jackson)
Worldwide, the NSC (National Safety Council) estimates 1.6 million crashes have occurred because of a single text message. That comes to approximately 1,600,000 crashes per year. Going deeper, that is around 11 deaths per day. With the newer technology in today’s society, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute can prove and show that looking at a phone while driving is equivalent to driving blind for 5 whole seconds. To put that into a better perspective, that is like driving the length of a football field at 55 mph with one’s eyes closed. With a shocking 23% higher risk of an accident and 18% less brake reaction, these stats still continue to rise by 4% each year and are escalating at this very moment. (Lohmann) If this issue doesn’t seek attention fast enough, it will turn into a nightmare.
Over the course of many years, people have been impacted by texting and driving by losing the ones they love. One of those many people who were impacted was a young woman named Jennifer Smith. In 2008, Jennifer lost her beloved mom, Linda Doyle, to a texting and driving accident. The heartbreaking thing was that it wasn’t even her that was texting. On her way to her regular volunteer day at the Humane Society, a driver using a cell phone plowed through a red light and slammed into Ms. Doyle’s mini-van, resulting in a painful death the next day. After the accident occurred and police examined the scene, they noticed that there was not one skid mark anywhere to be found; she was hit straight on at 55 mph. Ms. Doyle had never even gotten a speeding ticket of any sort; she was a very cautious driver by far. Visibility was great that day, so what caused it? When they interviewed the man that killed her, he said he remembers picking up his phone one second and then hitting someone the next. But what stood out was when he was asked what color the light was; he didn’t even recall. He said he never saw it. After her mother was killed, Jennifer didn’t know what to do. She just never understood how “someone like that could just drive through a red light without seeing it.” (Hanes “Dangerous as Drunk”) Soon after that, another forlorn story appeared in the papers. Wil Craig, a high school senior with high hopes in the future, was traumatically injured in a texting and driving accident. Again, it wasn’t even his fault. He was riding in a car with his girlfriend as she drove and texted at the same time. As a result, the car was totaled. The driver, his girlfriend, had no serious injuries at all. However, Will “suffered a collapsed lung, four broken ribs, and a traumatic brain injury, which put him in a coma for 8 weeks.” (Jackson) These are just two examples of innocent people who were badly hurt in accidents because of a single text message. Was that message really worth taking someone’s life?
Researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School made a recent virtual study for driving experiments with 21 teens between the ages of 16-18. For this study, each teen drove a simulated car through the same scenery for 10 minute block times. First they drove with no distractions what-so-ever. Then they drove in the same exact scenery while texting and calling. The results weren’t surprising. In the first round, without any distractions, all of them had “very little to no finger movement.” But, when they were distracted, they “steered erratically, weaving in and out of lanes, running over virtual people.” (Hendrick) Even though they were very experienced drivers with more than 6 months of driving experience, they still could not control their movements when distracted behind the wheel. After the study was done, the researchers concluded that “the brain was suppressed from the cell phone conversions.” (Hanes “New Drunk Driving”) So, if studies can prove that the brain can not handle texting while driving, why have we not made it illegal yet?
With this question in mind, there has been a rising legal response regarding this worldwide problem. Currently 30 states have made texting and driving illegal. However, penalties range greatly from a minor fine to jail time. (Jackson) For example, in the state of Utah, if you are caught texting while driving, the punishment is unfortunate. Because people know the risks, Utah treats it as a form of negligence, which is up to 15 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. As of right now, 43 states have minor bans on texting while driving. Some states have made it a primary offense, which allows cops to pull over anyone for violating this law. But, most of these states have only a secondary offense, which means this person has to be violating another law first before the cop can pull them over. (“US Pushes”) Also, it is very hard to even arrest someone for the act because the person who was on their phone could always say they were just checking on google maps for directions, which isn’t a crime. (Chammah) As these problems have been going on for quite some time, a hearing was conducted in Texas for all relatives of loved ones that were killed in texting and driving accidents. All of these people wanted justice for their son, daughter, nephew, niece, etc. Even though they had good points, people think that Law Enforcement are taking their individual rights away. But what they don’t understand is that they “still have the right to text at an appropriate time, just not behind the wheel and they still have the right to drive, but must keep in mind that your safety is as important as mine.” As “banning texting will undoubtedly save lives”, a law needs to be passed. (Chammah)
As teens are much to blame for most of the texting accidents that occur, parents are as much to blame as their kid in front of their child. Parents need to set a good example and be a good role model to them, which means no texting while driving. Also, always give clear instructions whenever their child goes out for a drive. A good saying to live by is “on the road, off the phone.” These instructions might include little precautions like locking their phone in a glove compartment which makes it out of sight and out of mind. If not, then they must always pull off the road safely to respond. And they must know how to speak up if they are in a car with a texting driver. (Lohmann) A few words can save their life. Furthermore, no devices period. Don’t let kids think that it is safer to use a hands-free device because in reality, it isn’t. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Unit, there is actually no difference whether a hands-free of hand-held device is used, even by voice. As “response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used”, they both took the driver less time to watch the roads. (“Hands-Free”) However, there is some hope in technology. The advancements in technology keep growing. A new system that is in the progress of being introduced to the public is a system that develops and blocks incoming texts when phones are connected or are in the car. When a text comes in, it automatically responds a “sorry I’m driving” message. With all the technology rising, “we’re going to have a nightmare on our hands if we don’t get ahead of technology before technology gets ahead of us.” (Hanes “Dangerous as Drunk”)
The main issue of texting and driving is people’s unawareness of its true potential danger. People tend to say that it is easy to control. But what they don’t realize is that it’s like driving 55 mph down a football field with their eye’s closed. They don’t understand that it’s not that easy to just “put it down.” For example, a college student named Heather Barrett was interviewed on her perspective of texting and driving. Her response was that she “prefers to text and drive rather than talk. I can put the phone down in the middle of a text if something is going on.” This response was shocking to most of police enforcement because it really isn’t that simple. Some people think it is even okay to hold up the phone by their eyes to text so that they are “still watching the road.” Or they even say that they are just “good at typing without looking at the screen.” Although these attempts are possible, they still distract the driver from keeping 100% full focus on their surroundings.
Clearly, texting while driving is a serious problem. Just imagine your own mother or father telling you, “I’ll be right back I’m just going to run to the store.” Then you receive a phone call or a knock on your door getting the horrifying news that someone in your family was hurt or even killed as a result of texting while driving. It is happening all around us, every day, every minute, and every second. This is why the US needs to outlaw texting and driving. With technology and cell phone use increasing, it seems like an impossible task. But, by taking small precautions and warning the ones you love, it might make them live a little longer. With texting being a “perfect storm of distraction with cognitive, manual, and visual elements”, nothing can stop this issue, but you (Hanes “New Drunk Driving”).
Chammah, Maurice. “Lawmakers Renew Push to Ban Texting and Driving.” Texas Tribune. 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
“Hands-Free Texting Is No Safer to Use While Driving.” Scientific American. Np., 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 8 May 2014
Hanes, Stephanie. “Texting While Driving: The New Drunk Driving.” Christian Science Monitor. 05 Nov. 2009: Np., SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 09 Apr. 2014
Hanes Stephanie. “Texting While Driving Is As Dangerous as Drunk Driving.” Distracted Driving Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. At Issue. Rpt. From “Texting While Driving: The New Drunk Driving.” Christian Science Monitor. 2009. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Hendrick, Bill. “Teens All Thumbs When Texting and Driving. WebMD Ed. Louise Chang. Np., 5 May 2009. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Jackson, Nancy Mann. “Cell Phones and Texting Endanger Teen Drivers.” Teen Driving Ed. Michele Siuda Jacques. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. From “Dn’t txt n drv: Why You Should Dissconnect While Driving.” Current Health Teens (Mar. 2011). Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.