Police can confirm that texting was at least partially to blame for a recent Birmingham car accident that ended the life of an eighteen-year-old mother and her 10-month-old son. Not long after the crash, it was reported that the 18-year-old woman was using her phone in the seconds before her car went across the median and slammed directly into a dump truck. The police responding to the crash site reportedly found an unsent text message on the young mother’s phone.
Recently we’ve noted a push by the federal government for a law that would prohibit all bus and truck drivers from being able to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. And this would apply to both hand-held or hands-free devices across State lines.
Distracted driving sadly continues to claim more than the staggering 5,000 lives a year, which has been reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Is the only thing we can do just stand by and watch cell phone use claim more and more lives?
The constantly growing evidence of the dangers of cell phone use behind the wheel shows that even hands-free cell phones are not a safe alternative. Why? Because of the mental distraction that comes with talking on a phone. It doesn’t matter what the conversation is about, if you can’t put your focus 100% on the road in front of you, you can’t safely drive a motor vehicle. And that’s why there’s evidence that talking on the phone while operating a motor vehicle should be outlawed in every case except for dire emergencies.
Yet even with the constantly growing death tolls, no state has thus far banned hands-free devices behind the wheel. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reported nine states and the District of Columbia prohibits all drivers from using hand-held phones while behind the wheel. These States include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Sadly, the Alabama driving laws only prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone or text messaging while driving. The individual cities have been left to decide for themselves.
The Times Daily reported that the police in Florence are attempting to enforce a texting ban passed by the city council. In all, however, AAA Alabama reports that around 20 cities have banned texting on a cell phone while driving.
Police in many jurisdictions has had a deal of trouble enforcing these bans because, for obvious reasons, it’s tough to prove someone was texting (which is illegal) as opposed to just dialing a number (still legal). This makes the job of a policeman enforcing safety regulations increasingly difficult.
The GHSA recently summarized 350 distracted driving studies and their scientific calculations, all having been produced in the last decade. “Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know,” GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha reported. “Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it.”
Among the findings of the GHSA, however, there are some valuable things to keep in mind:
-Drivers are distracted as much as half the time they are behind the wheel. Whether this is by their phones, passengers or thoughts, it’s something we need to work on.
-Motorists adapt driving style to the current driving conditions, becoming more alert when facing risky situations.
-As many as 1 in a staggering 4 accidents involve distraction by one or both motorists.
-Texting on your cell phone increases your risk of an accident more than the cell phone itself.
The GHSA reportedly encouraged states to enact texting bans and cell phone bans for both old and new drivers — including a ban on hands-free devices behind the wheel. It also encouraged the implementation of a distracted driver communications program as well as programs aimed at employers for their employees. Let’s stay safe on the roadways and bring distraction down to a minimum.