What’s the fuss with texting while driving?

30 years ago, a cellphone was too expensive to be owned by everybody. However, that is not the case today. In this century, everyone has one or, two in whichever brand there is in the market. We see cellphones as a necessity, most importantly as a source of communication which ultimately makes it vital for everyone to have. However, as cell phones evolved over the years whether in design or functions, our attitudes towards it also changes. Nowadays, with the appearance of smartphones which are equipped with internet, makes it easier for us to surf the net and also log in to our social media accounts. But with good things comes the bad.

Despite connecting people even from different continents (thanks to the internet and social media) cell phone is becoming a problem when people do not know when to put it down. If you are in the office or at home, then it is alright to text or call someone but, if you are behind the wheels, it can cause major consequences namely, the life of other people. As reported by the US department of Transportation, research done shows that 385 died in crashes are caused by at least one of the drivers was using a cell phone (12% of fatalities in distraction-affected crashes) at the time of the crash. The use of a cell phone reported includes the act of talking or listening to a cell phone, dialing and texting a cell phone, or other cell-phone-related activities such as updating social networks. A recent study by National Safety Council found that 26 per cent of all car accidents were caused by driver using cell phone (Gorman, 2014). Furthermore, the report stated that the vast majority of those crashes, 1.4 million annually are caused by cell phone conversations and 200,000 are blamed on texting (Halsey III, 2014). Apart from that, in Washington itself 28 percent of accident involves talking, texting on cellphones while driving based on the study released by National Safety Council (Halsey, 2010). Despite the big numbers, laws prohibiting cell phone use behind the wheel are not providing much help in preventing these accidents.

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Accidents involving the use of cell phone while driving are nothing new today. Here are two cases to look at.

Exhibit A:

A mother was killed by a man who ran a red light because he was busy talking to his phone (Halsey III, 2010).

Exhibit B:

Jake Owen, a five years old boy from Maryland was busy playing his video games at the back seat when an SUV rammed into the back of his father’s car and killed him. It was reported that the driver, Devin McKeiver was using a cell phone when the impact occurred and did not hit the brake (Johnson, 2014).

Instead of going to jail for manslaughter, the man who caused Jake Owen’s death was only fined $1,000 because his lawyer argued he was doing something that everyone does: using a cell phone. Now, Jake’s family and others are asking the Maryland lawmakers to increase the penalties for drivers who caused accidents due to using their cell phone while driving. The bill was named “Jake’s Law” would penalized distracted drivers who is found guilty of causing fatal crash with up to three years in jail, $5,000 fine and 12 points on their driving license, enough to get their license suspended (Johnson, 2014). The bill also requires the drivers who involves in serious crash to submit basic information of their cell phone so that the police would know what they are doing during the impact. Jake’s mother believe that something has to be done to change people’s perception on this issue as she was quoted saying “anything that takes your eyes off the road, even for two seconds, is too long. It can take a life.” (Johnson, 2014).



However, not everyone was on board with that idea because sharing cell phone data is considered as an invasion of privacy, said the privacy advocates. There are other preventive measures that were taken to combat this issue for example, establishing a non-profit group like what U.S. Department of Transportation did. The Department sponsored a group named FocusDriven to attend to this problem. There are also states that are completely banning cell phone usage while driving for example, Guam, Puerto Rico and Washington, U.S.

Despite these preventive actions, prohibiting cell phone usage while driving is not easy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. about 660,000 drivers are using their cell phone during daylight hours (Johnson, 2014). Using cell phone while behind the wheels is the same as drunk driving. When there is alcohol, there will be drunk drivers, so, when there are cell phones there will be people who will use it while driving. People are just addicted to their phones. That is the reality in today’s societies. They either think they would not get caught or did not think a $50 fine is enough to stop them. Therefore, we really need to change how society thinks of this issue. Anything that takes your eyes off the road, even if it for two seconds is too long. It can take a life. A $1,000 fine does not equate to the life of a boy who had the world ahead of him. Hence, something needs to be done to stop this either enforcing a more severe punishment or create awareness. People should not die because somebody was too busy staring at their phone rather than on the road.

According to the World Health Organization (2011) studies from a number of countries suggest that the proportion of drivers using mobile phones while driving has increased over the past 5–10 years, ranging from 1% to up to 11%. The habit of using mobile phones can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road and also their hands off the steering wheel which will greatly distracts them from focusing on the road. This type of distraction is known as cognitive distraction which appears to have the biggest impact on driving behaviour. According to the World Health Organization (2011) using a mobile phone for text messaging while driving seems to have a particularly detrimental impact on driving behaviour.

This trend is particularly prevalent among young people, where they are constantly addicted to updating their social networks. Young drivers are particularly at risk as there is a greater prevalence of driving while using a mobile phone in this age group. A survey on 2010 conducted by AAMI found that 61% of Australian drivers aged between 18 to 24 years reported that they had sent or received a text while driving (compared with 32% of drivers aged over 25 years).  In addition, evidence demonstrates that undertaking secondary tasks while driving, such as using a mobile phone, causes greater problems for inexperienced drivers (who already have a higher crash risk (Grove, 2014).

The effects on driving behaviour of sending or receiving text messages are potentially very important. According to the World Health Organization (2011) while there is still a lack of research in this area, existing studies suggest that text messaging leads to increased cognitive demands in order to write text messages, physical distraction resulting from holding the phone, and visual distraction that results from creating or reading messages and these in turn has given impact on critical driving tasks.

It is easy to list down the advantages of mobile devices if it is used the right way at the right time. Despite the advantage of text messaging as a low-cost form of communication, the increasing use of text messaging services among drivers is likely to make this an important road safety concern. On the road, mobile device do comes in handy in times of emergency: flat tyres, stranded by the road side, car broke down, lost direction but all those can be done other times except for while having your hands on the steering. Even if the calls or texts are urgent, drivers should take responsibility with the life of others by pulling over to the road side until he or she finish using their mobile devices.

References

Gorman, R. (2014, March 27). One in four accidents caused by cell phone use while driving… but only five per cent blamed on texting. The Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2591148/One-four-car-accidents-caused-cell-phone-use-driving-five-cent-blamed-texting.html

Grove, K. (2014). CAARS-Q, state of the road. Mobile phone use and distraction while driving fact sheet, 2.

Halsey III, A. (2010, January 13). 28 percent of accidents involve talking, texting on cellphones. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/12/AR2010011202218.html

Johnson, J. (2014, March 9). ‘Jake’s Law’ addresses penalties for distracted driving. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/jakes-law-addresses-penalties-for-distracted-driving/2014/03/09/c64aaa22-a3da-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

Johnson, J. (2014, March 9). “Jake’s Law” addresses penalties for distracted driving. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

Katz, J., & Aakhus, M. (2004). Introduction: framing the issues. In K. James & A. Mark (Eds.), Perpetual Contact Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance (pp. 1-14). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Mobile phone use: a growing problem of driver distraction. Geneva, Switzerland,World HealthOrganization,2011. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/en/index.html.

Transportation, U. D. (April 2013). Traffic Safety Facts . New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC.

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