Texting and Driving Laws

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Laws started to appear in 2009 with President Barack Obama’s executive order to ban texting and driving for federal employees. In an article detailing this order, reporter Matt Richtel says that The order covers federal employees when they are using government-provided cars or cellphones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business. Richtel also says that, the federal government plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines, and may also preclude them from using cellphones while driving, except in emergencies.

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As of April 30, 2018; 47 states, including Washington D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam have banned texting while driving; 38 states and Washington D.C. have banned all cellphone use for new drivers; while 16 states have prohibited drivers from using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel.

Many of these state laws are also made to be incredibly strict to any offenders. For example, if an individual is caught texting and driving in Virginia, then they are subject to a fine of $125, with it increasing to $250 with each subsequent time that person is caught again. Another case is that in Hawaii; individuals can subject to a $250 fine, with it increasing to $300 if that individual was caught in a school zone. With all of this in mind, however, people still text and drive. Many people have the idea that they won’t crash their car when they’re sending a text or get caught texting and driving, because it hasn’t happened to them before. So when people do text and drive and don’t face any negative consequences from that choice, then it becomes reinforcement for them to do it over and over again. Another thing that has been used in the past to try and stigmatize texting and driving is the use of public service announcements (PSAs).

One look at the adcouncil PSACentral’s library of texting and driving PSAs shows thousands upon thousands of videos, radio, and print pieces that try to make a point on the issue. These PSAs tend to be shocking in their material; with many of them involving depictions of crashes and death being apart of their imagery. For example; in a PSA done by Project Yellow Light called Afterlife, a young woman is seen bloodied and bruised from what we later find out was due to a fatal car accident. As she speaks with the other two (presumably dead) characters, the audience finds out that she was texting her friend when she was driving and that is the reason she is like this. The PSA ends by her pulling her phone from her ribs and trying to reach her friend. These PSAs are meant to be shocking to arouse emotions from viewers, and with the Internet becoming more and more of a daily occurrence; an individual can find articles that essentially do what PSAs have been doing for years, with articles being able to talk about issues more in-depth compared to video PSAs. Articles like Shocking Stats on Texting While Driving serve to sensationalize the already unacceptable act in an effort to try and reach people and to tell them to not text and drive. However, Professor Russell Sabella has this to say about this tactic:

“While there is some research that shows that some students can be sensitized to potential consequences from videos like it, there is also evidence that students get emotionally aroused in the short term but desensitize in the long term. He said “some students get reinforced by the message that this happens to others but ‘it won’t happen to me.””

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