Cracking Down on Texting and Driving

Vol. 6 No. 9

riskmanager eletter Vol6 No9 textanddrive

Since the smartphone's introduction in 1994 and the subsequent consumer explosion a decade ago, texting while driving has been a concern. TextingAndDrivingSafety.com reports in 2011, 23% of auto accidents involved cell phones—1.3 million crashes. This comes as no surprise as 55% of young adults claim it’s easy to text and drive, and 77% are very confident that they can safely text while driving. However, 13% of drivers age 18–20 involved in car accidents admitted to texting or talking on the cell phone at the time of the crash.

Young people aren’t the only ones texting and driving either. State laws aside, one in five drivers of all ages confesses to surfing the Web while driving, which includes reading text messages. It’s not surprising that one in four car accidents is caused by texting and driving—which makes texting and driving more dangerous than driving intoxicated! In fact, texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drinking and driving.

Which brings us to the Textalyzer.

In April 2016, the New York Times published an article introducing a proposed bill that would equip police officers with a device much like a breathalyzer to capture multitasking drivers—a textalyzer. It would give police the ability to see recent activity at the scene of an accident by using the device to tap into cellphone operating systems. The desire for such a device comes after a decade of failed public service advertising campaigns. However, it’s raising eyebrows for those who are concerned with preserving privacy.

If New York enacts this law, it could change how we think about driving under the influence of communication and connectivity.

With or without textalyzer, a movement is in motion to make our streets safer. It is against the law in most states to text while driving, and if caught (or if texting is determined to be the reason for an accident) drivers can face criminal charges.

Jacque Gibson, a school bus driver in Des Moines, Iowa, is facing criminal charges after being caught on video texting while driving. She could be charged with endangering the lives of all students on board. And, this is not an isolated case. A similar situation outside of Nashville has prompted the state of Tennessee to pass a new bill increasing penalties for bus drivers texting while driving. Yet, another story from Modesto, California, paints a nightmare of a senior trip to Disneyland. The bus driver reportedly texted the entire way, sometimes taking both hands off the wheel. Once the class arrived at its destination, the students demanded a new driver.

Attempting to reduce rising statistics and risks to students, schools are starting the conversation with their driving-age students. Much like Drinking and Driving campaigns, Text and Driving campaigns are starting to pop up, incorporating hard-hitting images and facts. AT&T partnered with a school in Minnesota, bringing in a simulator to show students the dangers of texting and driving. Students were put in the driver’s seat and tested with texting distractions. Junior, Garett Ruroden said, “The last text isn’t worth dying for.”

AT&T started their outreach in 2010. For more information about the program, visit itcanwait.com.

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