Matt Richtel, author of A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption In The Age Of Attention summed up the issue of texting while driving in a poetic way, he writes: “Distraction is a powerful weapon” (2014, pg. 77). In the novel, a powerful and personal story is told from the perspective of Reggie Shaw: a young, religious man with his entire life ahead of him. He’s smart, ambitious, but like many young people today, he’s tied to his phone in a way that is hard to comprehend or even accept. Reggie’s texting while driving leads to a deadly crash, a lengthy investigation, and a question of morality in the digital age. Reggie, like many young people today, face this moral dilemma. Observational studies have noted that as many as 31% of drivers use their phones to text while driving (“Majority of Drivers,” 2018). Young adults are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of texting while driving, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting that “among [teenagers] the 61.3% who drive a car, 41.5% had texted or e-mailed while driving a car” (Greydanus, 2018). Some studies have researched possible solutions, with several states banning the use of mobile devices in vehicles altogether, while other states have preferred a more relaxed approach. This essay contemplates whether carefully considered regulations will help in prevent destruction on our roads by responding to the following questions:
While regulating phones would interfere with individual freedoms, lawmakers should regulate texting while driving because it prevents death, destruction of property, and emotional scars left behind by loved ones due to an easily preventable action.
What Are the Dangers of Texting While Driving?
Texting while driving has become an increasingly deadly issue in the 21st century, as more and more teens and young children use cellular devices and phones as a third limb. Texting while driving often puts drivers at risk of accidents, death, or emotional suffering. Researchers McCartt, Kidd, & Teoh have stated that the danger of an at-fault crash was “1.3 times as high when drivers were talking on handheld phones” and “2.8 times as high when dialing” (2014, par. 9). This essentially means that when you’re driving in a vehicle, and dial on your phone, chances of death increase by nearly twice as much than if you were not texting on your phone. Death is one of the main dangers associated with texting while driving and has been the cause of numerous fatalities among teenage drivers. According to an article by Donald E. Greydanus, author of the journal article “A killing on the roads,” “half a million teenagers will die in the 21st century as drivers or passengers” (2018). This age group accounts for the most motor vehicle accidents in the United States and accounts for the most tech-savvy age group of the United States, which paints an ominous picture for the future of the next generation of drivers.
Another danger of texting while driving is the destruction of property and health that drivers inflict when distracted. Sometimes, teenagers may not injure themselves, but pedestrians or other drivers on the roads. This happens when a driver is distracted and not looking where they are going, which causes them to crash into buildings, across roads, and even into bus stops. Texting while driving is distracted driving, and distracted driving is deadly driving. Some of the destruction of health that can come from texting while driving is depleted mobility of someone who was in an accident, which causes the family of the victim to pay exorbitant money on medical bills and rehabilitation for their injured loved ones. The damage to cars can lead to families having to walk until they can purchase a new vehicle or spiked insurance deductibles which hinder the ability to cover medical costs. The danger of destruction to property not only leaves behind physical scars, but mental ones as families struggle to gather their bearings in a new world.
The physical scarring is deep, but another treacherous threat looms with texting while driving, which is the emotional suffering parents and family members who lose people due to this devastating yet preventable action. One of these mothers is Mandi Sorohan, who lost her teenage son Caleb to texting while driving in January of 2009. It affected her life tremendously and turned her into an advocate against texting while driving. In 2010, the state of Georgia introduced a new bill which introduced new regulations that could prevent future teenagers from being affected by texting while driving, giving it the aptly titled name of Caleb’s Law (Wikert, 2018). Although Mandi fights for future teenagers, the damage has already been done to her own. It affected not only his mother Mandi, but his brother Griffin, who later said: “We’ll never get to talk to Caleb again” (Aaron, 2018).
What Are the Recommended Regulations to Prevent Texting While Driving?
The recommended regulations for texting while driving is broad and far reaching. Some states doll out harsh punishments where anybody who is penalized faces heavy fines or jail time, while other states have chosen a laid-back approach. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) laws in our country vary from state to state, and the states with the harshest penalties are California, Hawaii, and New York. Some of the recommended regulations in these states are high fines for offenders, the possibility of a suspended license, and even jail time. While controversial, it’s noted that these states have less instances of texting while driving, and less accidents. According to the Institute of Highway Safety, 16 states including the District of Columbia have recommended and enforce a texting ban on all drivers, while 21 states currently recommend and enforce an all cell phone ban within vehicles for all drivers, and 38 states ban all cell phone use by teenage drivers (Essex, 2018).
For Georgia mother Mandi Sorohan, mentioned prior in this academic work, these recommended regulations aren’t quite enough. In her home state of Georgia, smart phones “proliferated” in use, which caused a substantial “spike” in fatalities (Wickert, 2018). Mandi, still devastated by the loss of her young son, said: “I knew that’s all we could get passed at the time,” when speaking about Caleb’s Law, which was something that she fought for after her son’s tragic death (Wickert, 2018). The law stopped motorists from “texting, surfing the internet, and using wireless communication while driving” (Wickert, 2018). Even though the law was helpful when passed in 2010, Mandi says more recommended regulations needed to go into effect to prevent the tragedies that she faced. She says that regulations such as “$50 for a first offense” aren’t strict enough, make it harder to track teens who may be distractedly driving, and make it so teens can simply use their phones in another way, “as long as they are hands-free” (Wickert, 2018). Overall, regulations in various states are only scratching the surface of what can be done, and many argue that these regulations are hard to detect, and even infringe upon driver’s personal freedoms, but as drivers on the road today, it is best to take a small step towards a solution than do nothing.
Are Regulations the Best Solution to Prevent Texting While Driving?
The issue of texting while driving has grown and changed over the years due to the increasing presence of technology in our personal and daily lives. When just 10 years ago, texting was very limited, nowadays, texting consists of numerous distractions that can distract and consume drivers on the roads, and a one-second error can lead to lifelong consequences. Many who oppose the idea of regulating texting while driving offer valid criticisms for why it will not work to prevent the harm that it causes. Such criticisms are weak or limited legislation, infiltration on our civil rights and right to privacy in the United States, and not being able to determine whether or not drivers were or were not texting while driving due to inadequate or unreliable reporting. An extensive study was done, and the results proved to be a mixed bag, but overall the results deduced that fatalities do decrease after laws go into effect to prevent texting while driving. In the Abstract of “Driver Cellphone and Texting Bans in the United States: Evidence of Effectiveness” McCartt, Kidd, & Teoh note that driving bans on hand-held devices have resulted in “reductions in hand-held phone use,” while also noting that “texting bans on the rates of drivers’ texting are unknown” (2014). Essentially, this means that there is a reduction in distracted driving, but it’s difficult to prove just how many people are actually texting while driving when getting into fatal accidents. However, according to two crossover studies done, there was a “fourfold increase risk” of an accident with the association of cellphone usage inside of a vehicle (McCartt, Kidd, & Teoh, 2014).
One of the biggest barriers against the argument of texting while driving is the issue of how unreliable the information can be because a lot of drivers do not report that they were texting or using their cell phone in their vehicles. This is a rather common occurrence, especially post heavier regulations on texting while driving. Drivers may feel as though if they are honest about their driving habits, it may actually cause them to get fined or jailed. This is one of the ways that regulations are not effective. A counter-argument to this is that it actually proves that the numbers for those who text while drive may very well be higher than the figures reported, which makes it more dangerous. However, after examining various national, state, and local regulatory laws, an extensive study found that regulations have been “highly effective” at reducing drivers from partaking in “risky behaviors” such as texting while driving, but it is “unclear whether or not these regulations will have the desired impact” on texting while driving fatalities (McCartt, Kidd, & Teoh). Essentially, regulations can’t be proved to be effective, but regulations are having an impact on driving safety in the United States.
In conclusion, even though regulations on phones would interfere with individual freedoms, lawmakers should regulate texting while driving because it prevents death, destruction of property, and emotional scars left behind by loved ones due to an easily preventable action. Texting while driving may not be proven to completely be the cause of driving accidents, but enough proof is there to show that it does have a significant impact on the roads, especially with younger drivers. Regulations such as enforcing a cell phone ban policy in all vehicles, ticketing individuals higher for using their cell phones in accidents and bringing swift and reformative criminal action have already been implemented by several states. Parents argue that there actually needs to be more actions taken against those who text while driving. By and large, everyone can agree that in the 21st century, we live in a world dominated by technology. That technology has created problems with the way in which we view safety, driving, and attention. A preventable death from this tragic event can come in the form of regulations, which have been proven to greatly decrease driver’s driving distractedly on our roads. While some disagree with the details of regulations effectiveness or proving that texting while driving actually leads to death, we can all agree that something needs to be done to stop this. The issue can be summed up once again, with a quote from A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption In The Age Of Attention, “look at me and say, I don’t want to be that guy,” Reggie Shaw is quoted as saying (Ritchel, 2007). Anybody can be “that guy” that Reggie Shaw speaks of, in just a moment. That moment though, can prove deadly.
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