He’s driving on the highway when his phone beeps, and he looks down to see who it is. Before he even has a chance to look back up at the road, his car is suddenly spinning in a circle, hitting three other cars in its path. He dies, along with four other people in the same accident. The indirect cause: the freedom that driving laws gives teens on the road.
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of fatalities among teens in the United States, and teens crash four times more often than any other age group. Driver distraction makes up 16% of all fatal crashes for people under the age of 20.
“Texting, changing the music, and having friends in the car are all big distractions for teenagers,” McNicholas High School senior Elizabeth Zofkie said. “Especially with texting—we don’t realize how dangerous it really is, and how something bad can happen just from sending a single text.”
While many common driving distractions include other passengers and the radio, with a world of rapidly developing technology, cell phones are becoming an increasingly significant distraction for people of all ages.
According to the Allstate Foundation, texting and driving can increase the risk of an accident by 23 times. Think about it: 72% of all teens and 88% of teens with cell phones use text messaging. Within three seconds of a teen looking down at a text message, a crash can likely occur, as 80% of accidents happen within the first three seconds someone is distracted while.
“It’s one thing to be multitasking at home, but it’s a whole different situation on the road,” Shelley Stanley said. Stanley is the owner of Stanley’s Driving Training in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Based on statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association, only nine states have banned handheld cell phone use for all drivers while driving; and while there are 35 states that have banned texting while driving, no state has a law that prohibits all cell phone use while driving. While it’s good to ban texting while driving, there are many other distractions that affect drivers, specifically teenagers, such as checking Twitter, Facebook, or Email, and picking a song to play from the music on their cell phones. These distractions aren’t affected by a law banning texting while driving.
Because of our nation’s lack of stronger driving laws, organizations, foundations, and movements are striving to raise awareness of the effects of cell phone use and other distractions while driving, such as www.KeeptheDrive.com. Keep the Drive is a movement led by teens across the U.S who want to make a difference in the lives of teenage drivers across the country.
“I think these organizations are important because the more informed someone is, the safer they will be,” Stanley said.
Government intrusion on citizens’ rights is often a concern for lawmakers. It’s almost as if these laws have been instituted only to halt the acts and complaints of those who feel that cell phone distractions is a major issue that needs to be addressed.
“I would say there needs to be a law that bans all cell phone use while driving,” McNicholas teacher Mrs. Mary Beth Sandmann said.
While it is a priority for the government to respect the rights of U.S citizens; it is also important to protect the lives of teenagers and innocent drivers on the road. Ask yourself this: Are you willing to give up a text message to save a life? That is essentially what it comes down to—whether or not the U.S government and citizens will choose safety before that one-word text that could end a person’s life.