Recent research reminds us that tragedy can strike with frightening regularity out on the highway – and lots of stories focus on increasingly careless drivers using mobile devices. In fact, a recent study appearing in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that fatalities connected to distracted driving increased nearly 30 percent between 2005 and 2008. Why the spike over that period of time? It just so happens those years coincide with the rapid growth and popularity of text messaging.
As the volume of text messages climbs, so do reports of road fatalities connected to those messages. The stats say up to 16,000 additional road fatalities occurred between 2001 and 2007, and more than 5,800 occurred during 2008 alone.
Those startling stats led to reports which recommended legislation to bans texting behind the wheel. The recommendations called for “effective enforcement,” but what does that entail?
But here’s where what seems like an obvious outcome gets a bit sticky; yet another recent study suggests that, as many states crack down on distracted drivers, motorists don’t actually see any benefit from the legislation and enforcement efforts.
Massachusetts was the 30th state to pass a law against texting and driving, and it also restricted cell phone use by teen drivers. But according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, there’s actually no significant reduction in crashes in states where laws have been passed against distracted driving. Adrian Lund, the president of the HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, went as far as to warn that some evidence exists to suggest that crash rates may have actually decreased in some states which enacted texting bans.
As you may well guess, The Department of Transportation instantly denounced the HLDI study as ‘misleading,’ and the NHTSA agrees.
According to one the stats, 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving, and AAA says that while 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, some 35% said they’re guilty of doing it anyway. The AAA study also says 21% of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were “distracted” by their cell phones.
The numbers are indeed sobering. During 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, and more than 420,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. For that year as well, the statistics say fully 10% of all drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 who lost their lives in auto accidents were reported to have been “distracted” at the time of their crashes.
The NHTSA says distracted driving claimed nearly 3,500 lives in 2015 alone and 391,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.
Studies say that, during a typical day, more than 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving, and that results in enormous potential for deaths and injuries.
But law enforcement officials say they’re often hamstrung when it comes to enforcement of texting bans as they just plain can’t spot them. As the devices are usually held below the window level of a vehicle, it’s difficult – if not impossible – for officers to spot offenders in time to prevent an accident.
On the upside, technology has made it possible to take positive steps to protect young drivers from their own worst instincts.
Live2Txt blocks incoming texts and calls to a driver, and when the app is turned on, it silences a smartphone from receiving incoming notifications, texts and calls. And rather than isolate a user entirely, when a message is received, the app alerts the sender with a customized message to say the driver is currently unable to respond.
Cellcontrol is a subscription-based service driven by a device placed beneath a car’s dashboard. The linked app blocks teens from sending or receiving texts while driving, and as an added feature, disables a number of other phone features – such as email or camera access. The administrator receives a text or e-mail alert if the Cellcontrol app is deactivated or removed.
Drive Safe Mode
This app prevents texting and emailing while driving and it can also notify a parent or guardian when a phone is in use or if the driver shuts off the app while the vehicle is in motion.