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Texting and Driving, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 864

Essay

On September 2, 2012, aspiring rapper Ervin McKinness, 21, was driving himself and four friends in Ontario, CA, while also texting on the social media site Twitter from behind the wheel. One of his texts read “Drunk af going 120 drifting corners YOLO” (“YOLO” is an acronym for “You Only Live Once;” the misspelling of the word “and” was from the original tweet). A second Twitter message read “Driving tweeting sipping the cup f*** yolo I’m turning it up,” according to news reports. McKinnes’ last Twitter message was sent at 1:19 a.m.; at 1:40 a.m. the car that McKinness was operating slammed into a wall, ending up in the backyard of a private residence. All five young men in the car were killed in the crash. This is just one of the countless number of automobile accidents that take place every year that are related to the deadly combination of texting and driving. Although laws against driving and texting are on the books in a number of states, there are still many states where it is not illegal to do so. With the mountain of evidence demonstrating the dangers of texting while driving, it has become clear that it should be illegal throughout the country to mix these two activities.

Accident statistics related to the use of cell phones for calling and texting are startling. A 2010 report by the National Safety Council asserted that 28% of traffic accidents occur while drivers are using their cell phones. Of the 1.4 million cell phone-related accidents that occur annually, approximately 200,000 of them are directly related to texting.  Driving while distracted is a significant contributor to automobile accidents, and as the use of cell phones grows, these distractions grow as well. The National Highway Safety Council (NHSC) reports that the number of accidents caused by drivers who were distracted by their cell phones has doubled since 2005, and began to increase greatly around the year 2008. The NHSC indicates that this increase aligns with the widespread availability of text-messaging, which grew exponentially that year.

Drivers who use their cell phones for texting while driving are distracted in a number of ways. First, drivers who take their hands off the steering wheel hamper their ability to steer away from a potential accident or otherwise react to traffic conditions. Second, drivers who are texting with their cell phones must look away from traffic to look at their phones. Finally, when drivers are texting, they are mentally distracted by the need to read and write texts, which makes it that much harder to pay attention to traffic. Studies have indicated that distracted drivers are just as impaired as drivers who are intoxicated. It is clear that texting while driving is dangerous; what is not clear is how the problem can best be addressed by legislators and law enforcement.

In most states that ban texting while driving, a police officer must actually witness a driver texting before that driver can be pulled over. In some states it is not enough for a police officer to witness a driver texting; the officer must have another reason to pull the driver over. In many cases, this so-called “secondary enforcement” is a result of lobbying pressure from telecommunication companies who persuade lawmakers to write week, ineffective laws. In some states it is technically illegal for a driver to text, but still legal to read texts or to read directions from cell phone GPS systems. Drivers who are pulled over for texting in these states can simply say that they were doing one of these activities, rather than texting, and they will not be ticketed.

Considering these limitations for law enforcement, it may take some more drastic measures to alleviate the problem of texting-related automobile accidents. The federal government has already banned texting for drivers using government cars, though it is still difficult to enforce as long as drivers are using their own personal phones. New technologies and phone apps exist that may help to address the problem, though some must be used voluntarily. Cell phone apps can be used to place phones in “driving mode,” which means that outgoing calls and texts cannot be made. Signal blockers can be installed in cars that function in much the same way; these devices could theoretically be installed by parents of young drivers, an age group that is particularly prone to distracted driving and text messaging.  While none of these options offer perfect solutions to the problem, they are at least a step in the right direction. In the end, it will likely take a combination of legislation, public education programs, and new technologies to combat the problem. What is clear, however, is that for these other steps to see widespread adoption, the first step is to make texting while driving illegal in all 50 states.

References

Halsey, Ashley. 28 Percent of Accidents Involve Talking, Texting on Cellphones. Washington Post. January 13, 2010.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/12/AR2010011202218.html

Huffington Post (HuffPo). Ervin McKinness, Aspiring Rapper, Tweets YOLO about Driving Drunk and Dies Minutes Later. Posted Spetember 13, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/ervin-mckinness-driving-drunk-tweet-yolo-dies-car-crash-dui-_n_1880348.html

McGlaun, Shane. Fixes for Distracted Driving Remain Unclear. DailyTech Blog. June 12, 2012. http://www.dailytech.com/Fixes+For+Distracted+Driving+Remain+Unclear/article24903.htm

PRWeb/Yahoo News. Texting While Driving Growing Increasingly Dangerous and Expensive, New Reprt Shows. July 2, 2012.  http://news.yahoo.com/texting-while-driving-growing-increasingly-dangerous-expensive-report-153144666.html

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