We know distracted driving is dangerous, and one of the most distracting things in our vehicles is our phone. However, even with the campaigns warning of the dangers of texting and driving, it is still occurring, and often with deadly results.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the percentage of drivers texting or visibly using handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014. Statistics show that in America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. Furthermore, a 2011 CDC survey found that 31% of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent a text or e-mail while driving at least once within the last 30 days of the survey.
Texting, emailing and social media messaging while driving is now illegal in many states, including Colorado. Specifics on the laws differ state by state. As distracted driving continues, legislators and public health experts are looking to treat it like drunk driving. According to an article from the New York Times, one example is that the founder of MADD, who helped found Partnership for Distraction-Free Driving, is pressuring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to discourage distracted driving, similar to the push on beer and liquor companies to discourage drunken driving.
But the most novel idea comes from lawmakers in New York. They have proposed a bill to provide police officers with a device that is the digital equivalent of the Breathalyzer—the Textalyzer. According to the NY Times, the device would tap into the operating system of a cell phone to check for recent activity. Thus, it could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or message recently.
This proposed legislation faces some reservations, mainly privacy concerns. The device would not be intended to give access to the contents of the emails or texts. However, the concerns may still be justified.
If the bill were to pass, New York would be the first state to propose such an idea, and most likely other states would follow. We do need to do more to prevent distracted driving and the resulting crashes. The Textalyzer and the potential of actually being caught when a crash occurs may be the incentive to stop people from driving distracted. Though, one would think the potential to cause a serious accident would in of itself be reason enough. Please everyone, don’t drive distracted. It can most certainly wait.