While it is safe to say that everybody knows that using a mobile device for texting while driving an automobile or other vehicle is illegal, thousands still engage in the act every day. In fact, current statistics state that at any given time in America, nearly 700,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while driving.
Texting while driving falls under the Distracted Driving umbrella, and is the cause of over 1,000 daily car accidents resulting in injuries and unnecessary and unfortunate deaths. So why is it that even when everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous and illegal, drivers still do it? Most likely because the majority of people who text or use mobile devices while driving do not realize the inherent dangers.
Additionally, the majority of those texting while driving are younger drivers; teens, and those in their early to mid-twenties. This generation typically rationalizes that they won’t get in an accident. Even powerful statistics, such as the one that states nearly 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015, seem to have little power to sway those who regularly text and drive.
Distracted driving is not a new term—it essentially refers to any activity that diverts a driver’s focus from the road and other drivers and objects around them. Before rampant cellular phone use, distracted driving could have referred to eating while driving, applying one’s makeup, adjusting the car radio, fiddling with a GPS, or turning one’s focus away from the road to speak to passengers.
Any of the above activities is an unsafe distraction, but in recent years, it has been determined that texting while driving is actually the most unsafe and dangerous driving distraction of all. What people don’t seem to realize is how far they actually travel along the road while sending or reading a text for just a few seconds. Traveling at 55 mph for only 5 seconds, a driver can traverse the length of a football field. Distracted driving is the equivalent of driving with your eyes closed, and driving across an entire football field with your eyes closed provides lots of opportunities for accidents.
Some states have banned all cell phone use while driving. In Massachusetts, it is not illegal for drivers to use their cell phones to make and receive calls while driving, although hands-free devices are preferred. However, texting while driving is strictly prohibited. Additionally, junior operators of a vehicle are prohibited from using mobile devices or other handheld electronic devices at all, except for navigation systems and emergency assistance controls. Bus drivers are also prohibited from using mobile phones completely while driving.
Massachusetts State Law will levy fines for the first and additional repeated offenses, and junior operators will also have their licenses suspended for a period of time. And because the texting while driving law in Massachusetts is considered a “primary law”, a police officer can pull you over simply for witnessing or appearing to witness texting while driving. The act is also completely illegal even if the car is stopped in traffic, so it is both a wise and safe idea to simply wait until some point that you can pull over and stop the car to read or send messages.
No one can deny that cell phones are a major part of our lives, and we are all guilty of interrupting anything we might be doing to glance at our mobile devices whenever we hear those telltale tones indicating a call, email, or text message alert. But the one place where you need to strive to avoid cell phone use is behind the wheel of a car.
In fact, in April 2017, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month was declared, and a “Drive Present” campaign was launched, focusing on teaching drivers to be more engaged in the driving moment, and less distracted by other actions and objects, especially mobile phones.
In order to cut down on accidents, injuries, and fatalities related to distracted driving, and more specifically texting while driving, drivers are encouraged to follow certain guidelines when getting behind the wheel of a car.
Remember, anything that takes your eyes and concentration from the road, pedestrians, and other drivers is a potential hazard. It simply isn’t worth it to risk your life and the lives of others to answer a text that can certainly wait.
Something else to think about: while not a national law, many states are adopting an increase in auto insurance premiums as a penalty for texting while driving. So not only does distracted driving endanger lives, but one may be paying for texting and driving for many years to come.