One of the most dangerous things a driver can do is stare at their cell phone rather than the road ahead. As confirmed by a recent State Farm Insurance survey, the biggest offenders are young drivers--those who ages 18-29. Indeed, 68% of young drivers admit to texting or emailing while driving. Likewise, 48% of young drivers surf the internet while driving. As a personal injury lawyer that has handled many serious auto accidents involving distracted driving, none of these statistics are surprising.
Of course, older adults are not immune to texting or emailing while driving either. According to State Farm's survey, 34% of older drivers admit to texting while driving. That is up 2% from last year. Despite all the campaigns against texting while driving, the rate of texting while driving continues to rise every year--as do deaths and injuries from crashes related to texting while driving.
Drivers who text, email, or surf the internet while driving put their lives and the lives of others on the road at risk. Indeed, distracted driving is the most common culprit of all auto accidents. According to the Department of Transportation, over 3,000 people were killed in 2010 from distracted driving related crashes. That same year, 416,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving. Perhaps most telling of all, 18% of all crashes in 2010 involved a distracted driver.
Despite know texting, surfing and emailing are highly dangerous while driving, why do so many of us continue to do this every day? The short answer is we have become addicted to our cell phones. Our cell phone addiction is so strong that we are willing to risk everything just to read an email or send out a text. The fact these messages are seldom urgent does not to stop us. The urge to engage our cell phone is just too great.
Since the risk of serious injury or death is not enough to make us to put our cell phones down while driving, is there anything that can be done to stop the madness? I see two things. First, we need to increase the criminal penalty for texting, emailing, or surfing while driving. Unless it is a true emergency, the first offense of texting, emailing or surfing while driving should be $1,000.00 or 40 hours of community service or both. If the driver seriously injuries or kills someone else because they were using their cell phone, the penalty should be the same as for drunk driving. Second, high school students should be shown a graphic video about auto accidents caused by drivers distracted by cell phones. Before students take their driver's license tests, they should be shown the same or similar video. Third, cell phone manufacturers should work on providing smarter phones. These smarter phones should allow users to listen to cell phone emails and texts, as well as send emails and texts through voice commands--all without touching the phone. Without better technology, stiffer penalties and convincing early education, the number of cell phone related auto accidents will only continue to rise, as will the number of those seriously injured and killed in these accidents.
USA Today, Young Drivers Still Texting, Surfing The Web, November 16, 2012.