Accidents caused by texting drivers are on the rise—and efforts to reverse the trend have failed.
It has been called a “national epidemic”. In 2011 alone, over 213,000 car crashes in the United States were attributed to drivers who were either sending or receiving texts from behind the wheel—a 33% increase from 2010. Even scarier is that after an accident, drivers are unlikely to admit being distracted by their cell phones, causing some experts to estimate that the actual number of accidents may be over three times that reported number.
Because texting while driving ostensibly requires a driver to both remove at least one hand from the wheel and to look away from surrounding traffic, the inherent danger of this activity should appear obvious to most drivers. Clinical studies of drivers and the effect that texting has on their reaction time support this reasoning as well, finding that text messaging can make a crash twenty-three times more likely to occur, and that texting causes a driver to look away from the road for an average of nearly five seconds for every six seconds of driving. This means that at 55 miles per hour, a texting driver can easily drive the length of a football field while looking down at the screen of a cell phone. As a result, many have argued that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than drinking and driving.
Given these facts, why do drivers still text and drive? One major reason is that younger, inexperienced drivers are those drivers most likely engage in texting while driving. While one 2011 study reported that 31% of drivers in all age groups had admitted to texting while driving within the previous thirty days, the percentage among high school students jumped to 45%. Another study estimated that over 3,000 U.S. teenagers die each year in texting-related auto accidents, compared to 2,700 killed in drunk driving accidents.
Unfortunately, state laws which restrict or ban texting while driving appear to have little, if any, effect on the problem. In 2009, the Tennessee legislature passed a statute banning texting while driving, yet a 2013 survey of 15 law enforcement agencies indicated that they had combined to issue only 389 citations since the ban took effect. Tennessee’s texting law is considered especially weak, as it fails to provide any increased penalty for repeat offenders, resulting in a loss of thousands of dollars in federal funding. Also, a driver who admitted that she had been texting when she struck and killed a couple on a motorcycle in Lawrenceburg last year was recently sentenced to only to four years’ probation for their deaths.
Given the current prevalence of cell phones, as well as the ineffectiveness of Tennessee state law, simply turning off and putting away your own cellphone before getting behind the wheel may not be enough to protect you or your family from the dangers of texting while driving.
If you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, and believe that the other driver may have been distracted by texting on their cellphone, you are urged to contact an experienced Murfreesboro distracted driver accident attorney, at Kidwell, South, Beasley and Haley either or by calling 615-893-1331, for a free initial consultation. By joining together to hold distracted drivers accountable, we can prevent future accidents from occurring.