Running Head: Texting and Use of Cell Phones While Driving Texting and Use of Cell Phones While

Driving in America Name: School Affiliation:

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING Texting and Use of Cell Phones While Driving in America

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For a long time, traffic accidents have been blamed on speeding, drunken driving, and unroad-worthy vehicles and roads in some places of the world. In the United States, however, the last two causes have never been a problem because the country’s roads and vehicles have all along been in perfect condition. Presently, speeding and drunken driving are no longer the leading causes of accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, in the United States. There is a new 21st century cause of the highest number of accidents, and that is cell phones (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). Initially, cells phones contributed insignificantly to the number of accidents recorded annually in this country. This status, however, has changed dramatically since cell phones with texting capabilities were invented and made available to members of the public (Wyllie, 2007). Last year alone, there were more than 3,000 cell phone use related accidents (Wyllie, 2007). What this means is that there should be no debate as to whether cell phone use and texting has any relationship with the ever rising number of tragic accidents on US roads. What policy makers should be interested in is finding credible ways of reducing accidents arising from the use of these electronic gadgets. Most states in the country have made great strides towards eliminating or reducing the number of fatalities that result from either making calls while driving or texting. Some of the states have gone to the extreme of banning cell phone use by motorists. Some of the states that have gone to the extreme extent of banning mobile phone use by drivers include Delaware, Arkansas, and District of Columbia (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). Although the list of those that have slapped a ban of cell phone use by drivers is small, this should not be interpreted to mean that other states are doing nothing. Each of the 51 states of the United States of America seems to have realized how dangerous the gadget that is mobile phone is when used by drivers. The state of

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING California, for instance, allows drivers to use receive and make calls but prohibits drivers from

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texting (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). The states of Michigan and Massachusetts also have laws similar to those enforced by the state of California. Other states employ the rule discriminately whereby some drivers are allowed to text and make calls while others are prohibited from doing either or both of these. The state for Oklahoma, for instance, allows experience drivers to use hand held electronic gadgets but prohibits truck, school bus, and novice drivers from using the same (LeonGuerrero, 2010). States that have steered away from ban or discriminate prohibition of cell phones by drivers use other alternatives to reduce the use of these gadgets. Some of the alternatives used besides prohibition include imposition of penalties on drivers. These penalties may come in form of fines or confiscation of driving licenses for those found to be breaking the law. There are, however, a few states that allow motorists to use cell phones freely without any limitation. These states include, but are not limited to, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota (Wyllie, 2007). States that have introduced and effectively enforced laws aimed at controlling cell phone use by drivers have seen drastic fall in the number of tragic accidents recorded. Enforcing these laws, however, has faced stiff opposition from drivers and other stakeholders in the transport sector. There are those who feel that mobile phone use leads to distraction but not necessarily to accidents (Wyllie, 2007). There are those who believe that applying of some of the rules indiscriminately disadvantages some drivers. Experienced drivers, so they say, can effectively and usefully use mobile phones and other hand held gadgets without causing accidents (LeonGuerrero, 2010). An experienced driver caught up in a traffic jam can effectively and usefully use his cell phone to make a call or send a text message rescheduling or cancelling an appointment.

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING Denying such an experienced driver to make use of his cell phone only puts him in a tricky situation. Rescheduling or cancelling appointments is not the only reason for opposing cell phone

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users by drivers. It is also argued that drivers can or should be allowed to use for safety purposes. Those opposed to the idea of total ban of cell phone use argue that drivers should be allowed to use cell phones because they can use the same to call for help when threatened by other rogue drivers. The idea of total ban is also opposed by those who feel that drivers can, in certain instances, be in a position to report crime to the police. Additionally, the proponents assert that mobile phones should not be banned, but should be used effectively especially by those drivers who lose their way and want to ask for proper direction (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). Whether the arguments or objections raised by proponents are credible or not, the truth needs to be known. The heart of the matter as far as mobile phone use is concerned is that whether a person is texting or making direct calls, they get distracted by taking their eyes off the road (Wyllie, 2007). It is known with certainty that it takes about 4.6 seconds for a person using cell phones to react to any situation on the road. This amount of time is equivalent to the time that an average drunk driver takes to react (Wyllie, 2007). Arguments for and against use of cell phones while driving should always be welcome but those opposed to laws enforced against the practice should understand that facts and figures speak for themselves. More than 3,000 lives were lost in 2011 alone, and so anyone opposed to mobile phone use bans should first consider these figures before raising an objection to laws that are honestly enforced to save lives and property. Critics of cell phone use laws need to understand that the number of accidents that occur from distraction related causes are significant and should not be allowed to rise unchecked. The critics need to understand that most collision and near misses that occur not only on the roads of

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING the United States occur because of inattention on the part of drivers (Wyllie, 2007). Secondly, critics need to understand that visual inattention, which is basically taking eyes off the road

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contributes significantly to crashes and near-crashes that occur daily on the roads (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). Thus, if the facts are anything to go by, critics should join those who aggressively push for passage and enforcement of laws aimed at prohibiting cell phone use by drivers. However, if these critics are not convinced that cell use needs to be banned, then they should have a closer look at real world cases of accidents and explore what really causes these accidents. One example of a tragic accident that is worth looking at is that of the Danny Oats. The victim was killed on August 29, 2007. Evidence shows that the victim was killed by a young driver who was, at the time of the accident, texting. In the following year, on 3rd January 2008, Heather Leigh Hurd, was ran over by a truck driver, who at the time of the accident, was using his cell phone to type a text message. In the same year, on 12 September 2008, another tragic accident, called Chatsworth train collision, claimed lives of 25 American citizens. It was alleged that the train’s operator was texting when the accident occurred. In the following year, May 2009, another tragic accident occurred in the MBTA Green Line. The accident is said to have been caused by a 24 year old driver, named Aiden Quinn who is said to have been sending a text message to one of his friend while at the same time operating his train. The accident claimed 46 lives and led to loss of property worth 9.6 million dollars. In 2010, a renowned plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills lost his life in an accident caused by distraction arising from texting while driving (Leon-Guerrero, 2010). These cases, it must be admitted, are only a handful of cases that result from cell phone use related accidents. Although stakeholders, including drivers of all ages and experiences, are entitled to their own opinions, it must be noted that facts speak for themselves. Even those opposed understand that

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING

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use of cell phones while driving has fatal consequences. Life is sacred and cannot be equated with anything else, and if there is a way that this life can be protected, then everyone must support such initiative.

TEXTING AND USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING References Leon-Guerrero, A. (2010). Social Problems: Community, Policy, and Social Action. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. Wyllie, D. (2007). Law and Consequences Relating to Cell Phone Usage While Driving. Ann Arbor: ProQuest.

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