The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) say that 2015 is most likely the deadliest driving year for Americans since 2008 due to the rise in motor vehicle deaths. About 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, while 4.4 million were seriously injured (road fatality in 2014 was 32,675). The dramatic increase in the number of cars on the road, one of the effects of gas prices going down, is one of the key factors for the rise in road fatalities, according to the NSC. And, with more cars on the road, were also more incidences of alcohol-impaired driving, speeding, people failing to buckle up, and many more instances of distracted driving. Distracted driving, specifically, refers to any form of activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. This bad road behavior takes many forms, including, but definitely not limited to, eating and/or drinking, cell phone use and texting while driving, smoking, and adjusting the radio. Since the introduction of cell phones, however, and now, the expansion of smartphone functions and wider use of social media platforms, driving distractions have donned a new front and it makes threats to road safety appear fun and exciting. Many drivers today, especially teens and young adult drivers, not only read, send and/or reply to texts while driving, but also send emails, snap selfies, conduct video chats, shoot videos, and use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat; some even watch YouTube videos while driving, practically believing that they can drive and do anything else safely. Despite differences of states laws on cell phone use, one thing is the same anywhere: there are no current laws, in any state, that ban all cell phone use for all drivers. Below is the cellular phone use and texting while driving laws in the U.S. (from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx):
- Hand-held Cell Phone Use Ban: 14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
- All Cell Phone ban: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use for school bus drivers.
- Text Messaging ban: 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.
Despite the bans on texting and cellphone use while driving, so many drivers refuse to be dissuaded from texting and using their cell phone while behind the wheel. The state of New Jersey, in particular, where distracted driving has been the top cause of fatal crashes for five straight years (2010 – 2014), saw the need to raise fines for talking or texting on hand-held wireless communication devices to discourage and stop anyone from further violating the ban on cell phone use. Well, let’s face it. Many driver may see the figures above as nothing more than just statistical data. However, for those who have actually been hurt in a car accident and know fully well how their injuries have altered the way they live, making a statistical impression would be a thing they would rather have erased if only time could be turned back.