Distracted Driving – A National Epidemic

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. The NHTSA defines a distraction as “anything that takes your eyes off the road (visual distraction), your mind off the road (cognitive distraction), or your hands off the wheel (manual distraction).”

Distracted driving activities include using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction (visual, cognitive and manual).

Statistics on distracted driving:

  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that there were an estimated 3,020 distraction-affected fatal crashes in 2012. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, compared with 3,360 in 2011. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2012, up 9 percent from 2011. Note: Because passenger car driving behavior falls under jurisdiction of the individual states, the DOT can’t ban distracted driving.
  • In 2010, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.

Throughout the country, more states are enacting laws to restrict driver distractions. Twelve states and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving; 41 states and the District of Columbia have banned the practice of texting while driving.

California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington, (as well as Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands), ban handheld cell phones while driving. With the exception of Maryland, all of these states allow “primary enforcement of an offense.” Basically, it gives police officers the power to issue a citation for using a handheld cell phone without any other reason for the traffic stop.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted special cell phone driving laws for novice drivers (for example, those with a learner’s permit) or young drivers (such as those under the age of 18). In addition, eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have banned school bus drivers from using cell phones while passengers are present. (For a full list, visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website, at www.ghsa.org, and click on “State Laws.”)

Utah has the most stringent law on the books – offenders convicted of causing an accident while texting and driving that injures or kills someone face up to 15 years in prison. Alaska outdoes every other state with fines – see the chart:

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. The NHTSA defines a distraction as “anything that takes your eyes off the road (visual distraction), your mind off the road (cognitive distraction), or your hands off the wheel (manual distraction).”Distracted driving activities include using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction (visual, cognitive and manual).

Statistics on distracted driving:

  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that there were an estimated 3,020 distraction-affected fatal crashes in 2012. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, compared with 3,360 in 2011. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2012, up 9 percent from 2011. Note: Because passenger car driving behavior falls under jurisdiction of the individual states, the DOT can’t ban distracted driving.
  • In 2010, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.

Throughout the country, more states are enacting laws to restrict driver distractions. Twelve states and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving; 41 states and the District of Columbia have banned the practice of texting while driving.

California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington, (as well as Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands), ban handheld cell phones while driving. With the exception of Maryland, all of these states allow “primary enforcement of an offense.” Basically, it gives police officers the power to issue a citation for using a handheld cell phone without any other reason for the traffic stop.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted special cell phone driving laws for novice drivers (for example, those with a learner’s permit) or young drivers (such as those under the age of 18). In addition, eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have banned school bus drivers from using cell phones while passengers are present. (For a full list, visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website, at www.ghsa.org, and click on “State Laws.”)

Utah has the most stringent law on the books – offenders convicted of causing an accident while texting and driving that injures or kills someone face up to 15 years in prison. Alaska outdoes every other state with fines – see the chart:

Alaska Texting While Driving Penalties

Text and drive onlyClass A Misdemeanorup to $10,000 and 1 year in prison
Injure someoneClass C Felonyup to $50,000 and 5 years in prison
Seriously injure someoneClass B Felonyup to $100,000 and 10 years in prison
Kill someoneClass A Felonyup to $250,000 and 20 years in prison

 

New Technology May Be the Answer

Several cellphone carriers are looking into developing technology that will prevent motorists from texting and receiving calls while driving. One company has already introduced a service that automatically disables rings and alerts, forwarding calls to voice mail when a phone is detected in a moving vehicle.

What do you think about laws restricting cell phones while driving? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Alaska Texting While Driving Penalties

Text and drive onlyClass A Misdemeanorup to $10,000 and 1 year in prison
Injure someoneClass C Felonyup to $50,000 and 5 years in prison
Seriously injure someoneClass B Felonyup to $100,000 and 10 years in prison
Kill someoneClass A Felonyup to $250,000 and 20 years in prison

 

New Technology May Be the Answer

Several cellphone carriers are looking into developing technology that will prevent motorists from texting and receiving calls while driving. One company has already introduced a service that automatically disables rings and alerts, forwarding calls to voice mail when a phone is detected in a moving vehicle.

What do you think about laws restricting cell phones while driving? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!