You’re in your car, rolling into a ditch on the side of a highway, you’re terrified and in pain from your injuries. You can see the broken glass, the car you hit on the other side of the road. You can hear the sirens of the police cars, ambulance, and fire truck. The police is looking around the scene as the EMT workers are getting you out of your upside down car. They find your phone, with a halfway typed text message to your best friend. In 2017 alone, 3,166 lives were lost as a result of distracted driving in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, Including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system–anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving” (“U Text”). It also states that texting is the scariest of all the distractions. “Sending or receiving a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed” (nhtsa.gov). Cell phone use while driving has been a serious problem for years and something more needs to be done. States need more laws on all cellphone use while driving.
Every state is responsible for making its own laws on cellphone use while driving. A majority of them only have laws for specific ages. For example, several states have banned cell phone use while driving for ages 21 and younger, 16 and younger, or even just teens with their permit. There are currently 38 states that have banned all cell phone use by teens (Essex). However, all age groups and genders are responsible for using their phones while they drive. Jonathan Adkins is the executive director of the Global Health Security Agenda.He stated that “it’s actually adults between the ages of 25 and 40 who are the biggest offenders” (Norton). This means that laws only pertaining to teens aren’t as effective. There are also states that only have laws for specific professions, such as school bus drivers. This isn’t as effective either, because people who aren’t in those professions still use their phone while driving. They are also just as capable of causing a fatal crash due to that decision.
There are many types of laws that have to do with cellphone use. States can have a ban on drivers using hand-held cell phones, meaning they can still use hands-free calling. They can ban all drivers or a specific age groups. 20 states as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a complete cell phone ban for specific age groups. Secondly, they can ban texting while driving. Again, they can ban texting for all drivers or a specific age group. 48 states as well as D.C, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands use this ban. States can also ban all phone use for all drivers or a specific age group. This would ban hand-held phone use, hands-free phone use, and texting. Florida, Idaho, and Alaska only ban texting while Montana has no laws against cell phone use while driving. Utah considers talking on the phone an offense only if the driver is committing another moving violation (Essex).
Missouri is one of the states that has the fewest amount of laws against cell phone use while driving. There is no ban against all cell phone use. No ban against hand-held phones. Only a ban on texting if you are 21 years old or younger. Again, this doesn’t do much, because the people who are on their phone the most while driving are older than 21.
Many people have opinions about laws banning phone use. Some people may say that they are capable of multitasking. Multitasking, isn’t actually physically possible. It is impossible for the brain to put the same amount of focus on more than one thing. That just isn’t how the brain works. Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Psychiatrist, calls multitasking a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” (Rosen) The brain can switch back and forth between tasks, but there will always be an amount of time where you aren’t focused on the first thing because you are focusing more on the second (Rosen). Therefore, you cannot have your full attention on the road while you are on your cell phone.
There are several other claims against cell phone bans. One of the biggest claims of why there shouldn’t be a ban against cell phone use is that there are other ways to distract drivers that can be more fatal. This is somewhat true, but it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a law against phone use. Other distractions sometimes can’t be easily avoidable or don’t come with a choice. Phone use while driving comes with the choice to do so. Therefore, you can choose not to. Also, banning one way of distracted driving is better than not banning any of them. Some claim that cell phone laws aren’t enforceable. Cell phone laws are very enforceable. With texting bans, police can pull over a driver on suspicion of texting. Then, they can be punished by the fine that their state has set. Car crash hospitalizations have decreased dramatically in states that have texting and driving bans, so the laws obviously do something (Law).
There have already been some ways to decrease distracted driving. Have you ever noticed that if you get too close to the edge of the lane, there is a rough strip of pavement that makes a noise when you drive over it and it feels like the car is shaking? Those are called rumble strips and are there to direct the driver’s attention back on the road. These are currently the most effective in preventing crashes due to distracted driving (Law). Some states also have text stops where drivers can pull over and make a phone call or text. In addition, most cell phones now have driving mode. For some, this means their phone doesn’t receive texts or calls while they are driving, or the texts and calls are delayed. Other apps completely disable the phone while driving.
These ways that were made to prevent distracted driving aren’t as effective as they could be. Rumble strips are mainly only on highways and only on the outside of the outer lanes, meaning a car could move towards the middle, in between lanes. I have never seen a text stop, and most people don’t enable driving mode on their phone. Some people don’t even know they can do that.
There should be more rumble strips. They should be on main roads as well as highways. There should be more text stops that people know about. There should also be more encouragement of using driving mode or other apps that make your phone unable to use while driving. Most importantly, there should be more laws against phone use while driving. States that have bans, but only for a specific age, should expand them to all ages. For states that don’t have any laws against phone use, they need to make some. Missouri in particular needs to tighten its laws on phone use while driving. There needs to be at least a texting ban on all age groups. In an ideal world, all phone use on the road would be illegal. But that probably won’t happen for a while, so let’s start with ending texting while driving.
Be smart when you drive. Be safe. Don’t be one of the lives lost to distracted driving.
Essex, Amanda. “Cellular Phone Use and Texting While Driving Laws”,
NCSL, 29 May 2019, http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.
Norton, Amy. “Texting While Driving: Does Banning It Make a Difference?”
CBS News, CBS Interactive, 3 Apr. 2015, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-while-driving-does-banning-it-make-a-difference/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.
Law, Bruce. “The Role of Technology in Distracted Driving.”
Professional Safety, vol. 64, No. 6, June 2019, pp. 62-63. EBSCO, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=fd7e5e79-33ec-4248-
a03a-12bde38d77c5%40pdc-v-sessmgr05. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.
Rosen, Christine.“The Myth of Multitasking.” The New Atlantis, https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-myth-of-multitasking. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.
“Should Cellphone Use by Drivers Be Illegal?” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 18 July 2009, https://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/should-
cellphone-use-by-drivers-be-illegal/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2019.
“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” NHTSA, 8 May 2019, NHTSA, https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-
driving/distracted-driving. Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.