Deaths caused by texting and driving vs. driving under the influence. Introduction Texting and driving refer to constructing, sending, receiving text messages, tweets, emails or any other messages through the cell phone while behind the wheels of a moving vehicle. For the last one decade, texting has become a social thing and is more abundant among teens.
The increasing production of sophisticated and affordable Smart phones, allows users to communicate more easily through sending texts as most of them comes with a preinstalled texting application. Though, sending texts through mobile phones is providing a convenient mode of communication, problems is that the same convenient is causing death to many drivers every year. Numerous studies have associated sending texts while driving with fatal accidents on our roads due to distraction.
Deaths caused by texting and driving vs. driving under the influence
The International union concerned with telecommunication, states that making phone calls and sending messages while driving is a key cause of driver distraction and results to the higher number of death and injuries through traffic accidents than drunk driving. A study based on accident research at the University of Monash, found out that receiving or reading messages and, of worse, sending messages has an adverse consequence of several safety vital driving standards. In particular, the results revealed problems in perceiving and responding appropriately to road signs, detecting dangers, duration of time spent off the wheel, improper position, when sending text messages. Based on this and other findings, places texting while driving as a major killer more than even drunk driving in the United States and other countries (Masters 1).
In 2008, people blamed texting as the main cause of the collision of Chatsworth train, which left over 24 passengers dead. Investigators resurfaced that the engineer of the train had sent more than 40 text messages while still operating on the engine. Despite the majority of studies revealing similar results, the number of texting while driving is dramatically increasing, so is the number of deaths through accidents in a year. This has led to the US governments enforcing stricter laws that have seen a fall in cases of accidents by drunk drivers. However, a new threat has cropped and is growing at a high rate. Texting while driving has become a threat to people’s safety on our roads. Texting while driving is turning to be a greater threat than drunk driving especially among teenagers who chat or send texts while behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle. As mobile technology continues to advance and the number of social sites continues to increase, more teens will continue to get injured, die or cause deaths as a result of sending messages while behind the wheel (Nunez 1).
A Cohen study conducted most recently in New York revealed that over 3000 teenagers are dying annually as a consequence of texting while behind the wheels of a moving vehicle. This figure extends to some high compared to about 2, 700 teenagers that die annually as a consequence of drunk driving. Various studies conducted over the years to compare rates of death caused by drunk driving and those caused by texting while driving found that, sending phone messages while driving is 23 times more likely to lead to an accident than a person who concentrates on the road. Texting may not be the cause of these accidents but the distraction caused by sending texts while driving is the real deal. Studies have shown that sending messages over a mobile phone while driving causes the driver to lose over 70 percent of his focus on the roads (Nunez 1).
Driving while drunk vs. text driving
While over 300, 000 teenagers are injured every year from text driving related injuries, approximately 280,000 teenagers find themselves in emergency rooms as a result of injuries caused by accidents from drunk driving. The number of people dying from texting while driving is rapidly overtaking that of drunk driving, according to departments dealing with disease control and prevention. Therefore, it will be logically correct to argue that texting while driving is currently the likely cause of many deaths for teens in the United States and other developed countries. Still from the Cohen study, findings shown that over 48 percent of boys between the age of 15 and 18 in the United State openly confessed to sending mobile phone messages while behind the wheel of a spending vehicle compared to about 45 percent of the teenage girls (Hosking, Young and Regan 5-9). The study found out that texting while driving is more likely to increase with age, citing that less than 25 percent of 15 year olds sent texts while behind the wheel, compared to over 55 percent of teens aged 18 years. Wrong judgment or distractions related to sending text messages and drunk driving are very closely according to a research carried out by the National Highway and Transportation department in the US. Both events lead to distraction and bad judgments on roads, hence the driver is unable to apply brakes on time or avoid weaving into an approaching traffic. The chances of causing a road accident while texting is almost equal to taking more than three beers and then driving on the roads, according to statistics (Hills 1).
According to US department of Highway and transportation (NHTSA), a bill on traffic safety that was adopted by all the States in 2011, has lead to a significant reduction in the number of deaths caused by drunk driving. The law lowered the illegal driving content of alcohol in driver’s blood to less than 0.09, which has seen the number of accidents caused by drunk driving reduce drastically. Compared to 12,405, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving to less than 9, 500 in 2011, the rate of death has fallen by over 20 percent. The number of people killed due to distracted driving in 2012 is estimated at over 3300 people, while the number of people who died as a result of vehicle crashes was estimated at over 32,800 people in 2010. Still in 2010 the number of deaths as a result of drunk driving was estimated at over10, 200 deaths. Therefore, we cannot afford to rule out accidents caused by drunk driving, but the statistics are crystal clear that texting while driving is a major and increasing cause of teenage deaths on our roads (Kaire 1).
The NHTSA for a period of 5 years has held diverse summits on distracted driving, prohibited sending texts and making phone calls for public service vehicles. It has also called on State and federal government to impose stricter laws, and organized numerous campaigns to increase public awareness on the danger of text driving. Sending texts while driving may result to three types of distraction, which comprises of drivers withdrawing their hands physically from the wheel while driving, visual distraction, such that the eyes are completely not on the road especially while reading a text, and cognitive distraction, where drivers migrate to other issues of driving. An opinion poll conducted in 2010 in New Jersey, found that approximately 25 percent of those who voted had more than once texted while behind the wheel. This has shown an increase in the number of people texting while driving, from about from less than 16 percent in 2008. This increase is believed to have resulted from increased in texting behaviors in adults. In New Jersey, over 30 percent of drivers aged between 30 and 45 percent and over 15 percent of drivers beyond 45 percent confessed to have been involved in sending messages while on the wheel in 2010, which represents a growth of 5 percent from 2009 (Kaire 1).
Texting and driving related accidents raises the question of whether a text sender is liable for the injuries or death caused to a person driving. Currently, it is still not entirely clear on the role of people sending texts hence causing traffic accidents. On one hand, drivers that cause accidents while texting and driving is liable for injuries or death brought to others, on the hand, the sender of a text message to a driving person who gets distracted while receiving a message and therefore causes an accident may also be responsible (WHO 54).
Efforts reduce Deaths caused by texting while driving
The majority of states is imposing laws and policies such as prohibiting sending or retrieving messages while driving, or utilizing specially designed driving licenses for teenage drivers, which help promote public awareness on the hazards caused by distractions while driving and the need to avoid it. The problem is that very few studies have been conducted hence laws aimed at reducing distractions by texting and uses of mobile phone have not been effective. From 2007, most states in the US have forbidden sending messages while driving and this has to some extend reduced the number of fatal accidents as a result of texting and driving, especially on private vehicles which has reduced by 8 percent. However, a long term solution is yet to be discovered as most drivers end up returning to the same behavior after sometime (CDC 1).
Some learning institutions are teaching students on dangers of sending and retrieving texts and other sources of distractions while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, some are providing students a chance to debate on the consequences of retrieving messages and texting while driving, while others are utilizing the help of simulators which help identify teenagers that are texting while driving. Technological remedies are used in 2013, which involve use of GPS or location oriented technology to identify drivers who are most likely to text while driving. This technology helps detect the speed of an android phone based on the speed of the vehicle when the user sends a text. This application is seen as a way for parents to monitor their teenagers, as they will be alerted when the child is texting or retrieving texts while driving and interfere with the phone at that moment. Drivers are also required to go through observing the sign prohibiting the use of mobile phone while driving and take a pledge to avoid sending texts while driving (Perle 2).
The proportion of texting related deaths is on the rise, while those caused by drink driving have reduced by over 50 percents over the last two decades. Currently, majority of traffic hazards and deaths are not related to drunk driving, which accounts for over 70 percents since 1982. The governments may be winning the war against drunk driving, but with the increasing rate of texting among people of all ages and especially among teens is worrying. Increasing text-based sites are heightening the delicate situation, as more and more teens embrace the texting culture. In fact, road accidents resulting from texting while behind the wheel is becoming the main killer of driving teenagers in developed countries. Many people are not aware of the dangers of this new culture, hence making it even harder to contain it. Though many students may be knowledgeable about the situation, the behavior may take years to tame. The ball is now on the parent’s side to educate their teenagers on the dangers of texting while driving, which complement government’s policies forbidding use of mobile phones while driving.
CDC. Distracted Driving. March 2013. 2 December 2013 <http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/>.
Hills, Suzannah. Texting at the wheel kills more teenagers every year than drink-driving, study reveals . 10 May 2013. 2 December 2013 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2322393/Texting-wheel-kills-teenagers-year-drink-driving-study-reveals.html>.
Hosking G, Young Lewis and Regan M. “The Effects of Text Messaging on Young Novice Driver Performance.” Report No. 246. 2006.
Kaire, Mark. Texting and Driving Accident and Death Statistics. 29 October 2013. 2 December 2013 <http://floridamedicalmalpracticelaws.com/texting-and-driving-accident-and-death-statistics/>.
Masters, Jacob. Texting While Driving Vs. Drunk Driving: Which Is More Dangerous? 27 October 2013. 2 December 2013 <http://www.bisociety.org/texting-while-driving-vs-drunk-driving-which-is-more-dangerous/>.
Nunez, Sigourney. Texting and Driving Lead Cause of Deaths Among Teen Drivers. February 2013. 2 December 2013 <http://www.loop21.com/start/texting-and-driving-lead-cause-deaths-among-teen-drivers>.
Perle, Liz. Driving Distractions: The Dangers of In-Car Electronics. 7 Jan 2010. 2 December 2013 <http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/driving-distractions-dangers-car-electronics>.
WHO. Mobile phone use: A GROWING PROBLEM OF DRIVER DISTRACTION. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2011.