The use of cell phones while operating an automobile is very dangerous and is developing into a serious and major problem across the world. Most states have specific laws regarding the use of cell phones for texting and talking while driving. In the state of Indiana, no driver (regardless of their age) is allowed to text while operating an automobile. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from texting and/or talking on a handheld cellular device. These laws are necessary and when obeyed are proven to save lives and loss of property due to automobile accidents. Still, according to the National Safety Council, one in every four automobile accidents are due to drivers, texting while driving. The result is more than 330,000 injuries annually.
When any driver is distracted, they are at a risk of being in an automobile accident. Yet, drivers in their teens and early 20’s admit to driving while distracted 10% – 34% of the time. In 2014, distracted driving attributed to a total of 3,179 deaths. It is safe to assume every case was not identified and the number could be higher. Here is a list of the most common distractions reported while driving:
- Attempting to make or receive a call on a handheld cell phone
- Receiving or responding to a text message
- Adjusting the music or attempting to retrieve or play a CD
- Watching a video in the vehicle or on a smartphone
- Talking to passengers
- Using the GPS device on a smartphone
As technology advances and applications are created to allow us to do anything with our smartphones that we can do with our computers, the danger increases. As we navigate through our apps, we delude ourselves into thinking we are invincible and safe on the road. We believe we can click a few buttons without taking our eyes off the road. The simple truth is, it is impossible. Accidents happen in seconds. While the use of headsets and voice-activated texting and dialing help (by allowing the driver to keep their hands free) they do not keep the driver mentally focused and distracted driving continues.
We have laws in place to protect us from ourselves. We have programs that educate people on the dangers of distracted driving. We issue public service announcements and we publish statistics continually. Still, the numbers of distracted driving due to cell phones hold steady. Some suggest it will take even greater strides in technology to force us to address the issues we are creating. This technology may include self-driving automobiles, smartphones that will shut down functions like texting or dialing while in a vehicle that is running. This technology already exists and some manufacturers are considering making these options factory defaults. Will our future highway systems include cell phone pull away zones with free Wi-Fi?
No matter what the future holds, people will find a way to override the safety measures. Unfortunately, that puts us back to the legal system and harsher penalties.