Over the past decade, cell phones have become a part of everyday life for most people. As such, texting has also become a part of daily life. Most people don’t think twice about texting while engaging in other routine activities, including driving, even though it is quite dangerous.
Texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. The behavior makes drivers anywhere between six and 23 times more likely to get into an accident than they would under normal driving conditions.
While it is a major issue across multiple age groups, incidences of teenagers driving and texting are far more frequent than incidences in other age segments. 82 percent of Americans age 16 and 17 own cell phones. More than a third of them state that they have texted while driving. Meanwhile 13 percent of drivers in the 18-20 year old population segment who were involved in car accidents admitted to talking or texting on cell phones at the time of the crash.
A new study revealed that texting while driving has become the number one killer of teenagers, surpassing drinking and driving. Over 3,000 teenagers die each year from texting while driving, slightly above the approximately 2,700 teenagers who die annually while driving under the influence of alcohol. Due to the widespread use of cell phones, it’s not hard to understand why these numbers have risen in recent years. Teenagers have their phones with them and are using them every day of the week. With the occasional exception, most kids aren’t drinking and driving on a daily basis.
Carefree Attitude of Teens
One of the scariest aspects of teenage driving and texting is that the majority of teenage drivers with cell phones don’t think that it’s a problem. Three quarters of young adults are somewhat to very confident that they can drive while texting safely. More than half of young adult drivers believe that it’s not difficult to text while driving. However, there is no denying that it is a problem. Consider the fact that teenagers who text while driving spend nearly 10 percent of their driving time partially or completely outside of their lanes.
It is easy to look at the statistics on teenage texting and driving and put all of the blame on teenagers. While adults aren’t forcing young adults to engage in this behavior, many of them are setting poor examples. Nearly half of young drivers have witnessed one or both of their parents driving while talking on their cell phones. Additionally, 48 percent of kids age 12 to 17 have been in a car while the driver was texting.
Each year more states are passing laws against texting while driving. Currently 10 states plus Washington D.C. prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones, and 39 states plus Washington D.C. prohibit all drivers from texting while driving. 32 states plus Washington D.C. prohibit new drivers from using cell phones while driving altogether.
Having laws against texting and driving seems like a good idea, but the laws aren’t doing anything to bring down the incidence of texting and driving. People are just as likely to text in a state with texting laws as they are in a state without texting laws. Some schools have been taking matters into their own hands by having their driving program students participate in driving scenarios that demonstrate the dangers of texting and driving. Academic teachers are also discussing the matter with students, placing a strong emphasis on the severe consequences of texting and driving.
Law enforcement officers are contemplating a couple new penalties to reduce the incidence of texting and driving. Currently most states have limited fines and other penalties for texting and driving. While increased fines and heavy handed penalties aren’t going to prevent all drivers from being irresponsible, they may make some people think twice when they reach for their cell phones while driving. Some law enforcement officers have also talked about making more widespread use of phone apps that prevent calls and texts from coming in when the app detects that the cell phone is in a moving car, such as the free AT&T Drive Mode anti-texting and driving mobile app.
If you have teenage children with drivers’ licenses, think about making a no texting and driving pledge together to help keep everyone in the family accountable for their actions. Some parents also install drivecams in their teenagers’ vehicles to monitor driver activity through real-time video feedback.