Yes, you read that correctly. It’s time to abolish these ineffective driving while texting laws! While it’s true laws against texting while driving are put into place for safety, they actually make our roadways more dangerous.
Public and political opinion on texting laws
The first distracted driving laws in the United States began being implemented in 2008. In Europe, laws began being implemented even sooner. There has been some resistance to these new distracted driving laws, but most have welcomed them with open arms. And so, there has also been little resistance from politicians to pass such laws.
But over the past several years, even while new texting laws are taking effect globally, texting and driving rates have only increased dramatically. People are simply ignoring the laws. Instead, they just try to hide the practice. And this is where we start running into problems.
Current state laws related to texting being implemented
The states that currently prohibit texting and driving in many jurisdictions include AL, AK, AR (except in emergencies), CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, GA, HI, ID, IL. IN (except for “bona fide” emergencies), IA, KS, KE, LA, MA, MD, MS, MD, MN, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VT, VA, WA (except under “certain circumstances”), WI, and WY.
The penalties vary per state, but mostly it will revolve around getting a monetary penalty or fine. These add points to your driving record, get your license suspended, increase your insurance costs, or even prison sentence if some major accidents have resulted in injury or death of any individual.
Penalties vary as well. It can reach $1000 in Alaska and up to 1-year jail time – one of the harsher texting while driving laws there is. For Utah drivers, prepare at least $750 and a possible jail time. In Indiana, the fine is around $500 for first-time offenders, $400 in NJ, and $500 in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, there are a few states that don’t implement any statewide bans on texting such as Arizona and Montana. In Texas, it’s only prohibited when driving at a school zone. Florida only implements a “limited” ban on texting while driving. This means that you can only be punished by an officer if you are legally pulled over for another crime.
In Mississippi and West Virginia, bans are only applicable to minors, while Missouri applies the same rules for first-time drivers aged 21 years old or younger. Those who only hold a learner’s permit in New Mexico and Oklahoma are also prohibited from texting while driving.
Why driving while texting laws are dangerous
Very little research has gone into these laws. Most people believe it’s just common sense to have these laws in place. What proponents didn’t take into account was the consequence of these new regulations. Allow me to explain…
Drivers are even more distracted than ever
You see, before driving while texting became illegal, motorists didn’t have to hide the activity. Even if they performed texting in plain view of a police officer while driving through a school zone, there was nothing the police could do. But things have changed. Now that the practice is illegal, people keep their phones hidden while they text and drive. So now, instead of the phone being up above the steering wheel where drivers can still see the road, they hold the phone down by their lap or under the steering wheel. This allows them to read or write a text out of view from the police.
The result of this behavior is deadly. Before driving while texting laws were implemented, drivers were only partially taking their eyes off the road. Now, since they must hide the behavior, their eyes are off the road completely. A very deadly combination.
Safe technology is being hindered
Texting laws are inhibiting companies from producing new and advanced forms of technology. These new laws completely ban the practice of texting and driving. But what if new forms of technology made the practice safer, such as text to voice technology? Private industries are too afraid to develop technology which could potentially make texting and driving a safer practice due to legal and liability purposes.
Just take a look at how car radios have changed. Now, drivers are able to use controls on the steering wheel or even speak commands so their eyes are never off the road. The same is true for GPS devices, MP3 players, and other forms of in-car technologies.
So what’s the solution?
Well, first of all, I’m not advocating driving while texting. But just because we create laws against it doesn’t mean our roads are safer. Fact is, texting laws are largely ignored. More people than ever are doing it. These new laws are being put into place with little to no scientific study or research. Everyone just assumes it’ll make us safer. But they are wrong. Dead wrong.
The solution isn’t creating laws. If we have laws against texting, why don’t we have laws against the hundreds of other forms of driving distractions (radios, eating food, iPods, reading books, yelling at kids in the back seat, using a laptop, smoking cigarettes, drinking beverages, etc.). What we should do is produce new technologies that makes the practice safer for everyone. Blanketed laws only make things worse.
How do we punish those who are texting irresponsibly?
In cases where somebody is drifting, blowing stop signs, speeding, or performing other unsafe maneuvers due to driving while texting, they should be fined for reckless driving. The same is true for people who are driving dangerously because they are yelling at their kids, in a fight with their wife, eating a burger, putting on makeup, reading the newspaper, or performing any other form of distracted driving. If they are being reckless, they should be punished. If they aren’t being reckless, well, they shouldn’t be punished. People should be punished for crimes, not a behavior which may or may not lead to a crime.
Isn’t that a reactive form of enforcement? Won’t people get hurt?
Whether laws are in place or not, people will get hurt due to irresponsible drivers. What we must ask is, “are we safer with driving and texting laws in place?” The answer is no! These laws create a more dangerous situation for everyone. While we can’t stop driving while texting, we can take steps to make the practice safer, educate drivers about the dangerous behavior, and punish those who drive recklessly.
The unfortunate truth is that people lose their lives every single day while driving. Sometimes it’s because of weather, sometimes it’s because they fell asleep at the wheel, sometimes it’s from somebody who spilled their beverage in the car. But driving provides humans with a freedom that we could never experience otherwise. It’s something that has become a necessity for everyday life. It’s unfortunate, but we must accept a certain level of danger when we get into the drivers seat.
Texting is less dangerous than other forms of distracted driving
It’s important to remember that driving while texting is not the most dangerous form of distracted driving. Nope, eating while driving, for example, is much more dangerous. Even fatigued driving is considered more dangerous (even more dangerous as drunk driving), yet there are no laws banning that.
People tend to forget that driving is a very dangerous activity. It just isn’t feasible to have laws banning every single thing that makes drivers dangerous. If we did that, it would be illegal to do anything but drive during the day in dry conditions at 5mph with adequate rest. We’d have to outlaw passengers, radios, GPS devices, and anything else that causes distractions. How much freedom are you willing to give up? These selective laws with no scientific backing do nothing but make our roadways more dangerous for everyone and increases government size, control, and regulation.
You Can Help Stop Texting & Driving – Even When You’re Not Driving!
Have you ever called or sent a text message to a friend, even though you knew they were driving? While the phrase “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” has been popular for years, nobody seems to worry about texting while driving. Do you part – if you know a friend is driving, do not call or text! Why add to the distractions your friend is likely already facing on the roadway? You do not want to be the one who sent a text message that got your friend killed. All it takes is a couple words to distract your friend enough for something tragic to happen.
The Future Of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is likely at the peak of its problematic cycle right now. With cell phones, laptops, GPS devices, satellite radios, and even televisions in our cars now, distracted driving has never been so convenient for so many people. The phone dings you got a new email and you’re sitting at a red light – might as well check it! You’re driving down a wide-open expressway and you get a text message – why not take a glance? A phone call comes in and you REALLY need to talk to the person – why not answer? The more times you get away with driving distracted, the more often you will do it. Each time you get away with distracted driving, it only reinforces that it isn’t so dangerous and you continue to push the envelope.
Most drunk drivers only get arrested or cause serious injury to someone after driving drunk about 80 times. Each time they get away with it, they feel more confident in doing it, until one day, reality literally comes crashing into their front seat.
Automakers are beginning to install advanced devices and there is even a car now that can drive itself! Incredible! As technology catches up to our multi-tasking society, vehicles and roadways will actually become safer while simultaneously allowing us to perform those distracting tasks while we drive (or let the car drive itself). We can look forward to safer roadways to come, but until technology catches up, the simplest solution to solving the distracted driving problem is easy. Don’t do it.