Texting and Driving Research Paper
I say this with love in my heart, because she was literally a part of my family and would never purposefully hurt someone. I can assume from knowing Lacy better than almost anyone that on that Friday she was animatedly singing loudly to the radio or retelling a funny story with voices as usual. Her focus wasn’t on the task at hand of driving and she missed a stop sign coming down a hill and crashed into another truck. None of the passengers were wearing a seatbelt. The man in the truck was uninjured and Lacy was life-flighted with severe injuries, but both of her passengers were killed instantly.
The two of them had just had a baby, which added to the unbearable amount of grief that Lacy and the rest of the family faced. On August 4, 2010, nearly a year after the fact, Lacy was charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter and after pleading guilty received two misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter and two misdemeanor counts of inattentive driving (Masters 2). Gossipers at our high school all had the incorrect first assumption that the accident was due to texting while driving, which makes a statement in itself about how common of a practice it is by teenagers.
Lacy’s horrible inattentive driving record with multiple minor accidents, holds evidence to the theory that teens will continue to practice poor habits until severe enough consequences are put into order. I believe that we should keep young adults from having to learn the hard way and make efforts to not have anyone else be left scarred for life with their futures ruined. The state of Idaho has joined the movement that was already widespread in America and in doing so took legislative action against texting while driving.
Idaho is now an example of using legislature to provide public safety, but further measures need to be taken on a national level by passing a ban on hand-held devices while driving. Before I began researching the prevalent issue of texting while driving, I had knowledge limited to what I’d seen on the news and learned through my involvement with Meridian’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory council. Young adults always seemed to be targeted as the main perpetrators of distracted driving; particularly texting while driving.
From being a member of the respective young adult age group, I’ve seen a myriad of preventative awareness campaigns geared toward texting while driving. It wasn’t until a death of a girl named Kassy at my high school (the same year of Lacy’s accident) that the community of Meridian rallied and demanded legislative action in her name. Idaho is one of 9 states in the nation that doesn’t offer regulation on cell phone usage, but several cities within the state have taken action. In my home city of Meridian, ID an ordinance was passed that imposed a fine on violators who were caught texting while driving.
This texting ban was commonly known as “Kassy’s law”, in honor of her death and her family that raised awareness. Concerned lobbyists question why several cities in Idaho have enacted ordinances and other states have created laws, but Idaho has rejected several proposed bills against texting while driving. In 2009, the first legislative attempt in Idaho to prevent texting while driving was senate bill 1030 that would have “prohibited the use of cell phones with a hands-free accessory” (Abel 2). It failed since the bold suggestion was seen as an infringement on rights by the vast majority.
The following year “a ban that had passed the Senate died on the final night of the legislative session in the House, when then-Rep. Raul Labrador, now an Idaho U. S. representative, used a parliamentary maneuver to force a two-thirds vote” (Russell 1). Last year’s version would have banned texting while driving only if it distracted the driver; the bill failed. There was success in Meridian, Sandpoint, and Twin Falls in passing ordinances through their city councils that ban texting while driving, with fines for violators.
After three years of failed attempts, Idaho officially banned texting while driving on April 5, 2012 with Governor Butch Otter signing house bill 1274a (Russell 1). On July 1st when the law goes into effect, Idahoans will be held accountable by an infraction. An article found on EBSCO, written by John Callegari for Long Island Business News, unveiled the multitude of legislative action that has been taken by the nation as a whole. The article declares that Representative McCarthy introduced legislation to standardize laws regarding the use of handheld devices while driving, known as the Safe Drivers Act of 2011.
Her evidence in success of the ban passed in her state of New York was that, “Laws do work. Immediately after New York banned cell phone use there was a 47 percent decline in cellphone activity while driving” (Callegari 1). As noted in the article, the only states that don’t offer regulations are: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota (Callegari 2). The Safe Drivers Act of 2011 would make it so that “If approved, each state would have two years to come into compliance with the law.
Those states that were not in compliance after the two-year period would have 25 percent of their federal funding for transportation and highways withheld until they were in compliance” (Callegari 2). Callegari’s article asserts political aspects of legislature and how the minds of states work. The conservative nature of Idaho as a whole has placed us in with the six other states that are resistant to pass new legislature. Similar patterns were seen with seatbelt laws in people being opposed to the federal government mandating “how they live their lives”, but eventually it became socially accepted and practiced.
Texting while driving bans are mildly seen as infringing on rights when compared to hands-free laws. Ordinances in multiple cities are the first step, passing a texting while driving bill that involves fines is the second, and I predict that a hands-free law will be the end result in legislative action to prevent the issue from spreading more. Several insurance companies, such as State Farm, have researched and campaigned to raise awareness to families about the dangers of texting while driving.
In his article in USA Today, Larry Copeland reports on State Farm’s findings and their customers reactions to it. State Farm’s vice president of strategic resources said, “The risks and dangers are not well understood by teens. I think one of the reasons is that they’re not well understood by parents, either”. According to the article, “the survey highlights a reality of life among many teens: Staying connected is vitally important to them, and maintaining that connection—even when they’re driving—overrides safety arnings from driver’s education instructors, celebrities and even parents”(Copeland 4). Efforts to promote awareness and educate the public have been made by the government, celebrities, and by victims telling their stories. Data from Distraction. gov states that, “Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. In 2010 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents”. Several facts like these, personal stories, and news articles involving distracted driving can be found on the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving.
Even iconic figures like Oprah are spending their own time and money on this worthy cause. The Oprah Winfrey show introduced her campaign that asks viewers to spread the message by making a “No Phone Zone pledge” and passing it on (Mohn 1). While I wouldn’t base my whole argument off of the findings of evaluating one insurance company’s research, Larry Copeland brings up a valid point that seems inevitable to me. Teenagers are infamous for their tendency to be hard-headed which makes them so dangerous that they should permanently wear a helmet.
In Meridian’s city council hearing to pass the texting while driving ordinance, one man’s testimony stood out to me. He was opposed to the ordinance because he saw it as the government exerting their power to control us. In the midst of his heated speech, he told witnesses that this would be the first of many laws and that next they’d make us wear helmets to simply walk on the sidewalks. While this was an extreme idea, it reminded me that even though rights of citizens are important, it’s more beneficial to everyone to make safety the top priority.
Even if passing a law butts into peoples’ lives, it could save the life of the pedestrian on the street that could potentially get hit by a distracted driver. Political wrangling and disagreements over approach have derailed all distracted driving legislation to date, but lawmakers acknowledged during debate on the 2012 texting plan that public sentiment has changed (Abel 5). According to a study done by AAA car insurance company “Almost nine out of 10 Idaho voters are in favor of a ban on text messaging. Six in 10 wanted to see some kind of cell phone ban for drivers.
Eight in 10 backed enhanced penalties for distracted drivers who cause accidents” (Abel 5). Through persistent lobbying, campaigning, and rallying this legislative session, a bill that would outlaw texting by all drivers has made great progress. The future looks promising with the recent passing of bill no. 1274, as it was approved by the house on March 20th and goes into effect July 1st. Many advocates are rejoicing about the improvement of safety on the roads, but issues with the texting ban undeniably exist. For three years great multitudes of representatives across Idaho drew up bills that failed.
The failures, with the exception of the hands-free ban proposal in 2009, can all be analyzed to see that enforcement is where they fell short in effectiveness. Wording of the bill outlaws texting specifically using hand held devices, therefore leaving dialing a number or surfing the web with dash mounted systems legal. “The question becomes how law enforcement will tell, from across a highway at 60 miles an hour, whether someone is texting, or just Web surfing, using a handheld device or something else” (Hoffman 1).
Hoffman believes that the answer to this question is that officers will have to depend on self-incrimination by people admitting to texting while driving after being stopped for something else (Hoffman 2). He alludes to the ridiculousness of leaving regulation up to violators by saying “if the criminal justice system is really lucky, the accused will simply pay the fine and avoid a hassle of a court appearance” (Hoffman 2). “Idaho has misdemeanor penalties for inattentive driving, but unlike most states it had no specific law banning texting while driving” (Russell 1).
This new law is one giant step towards improving the safety of drivers today and sets an example for future license holders, but our state still needs to continue to take action. Along with expanding the preventative texting while driving curriculum into driver’s education courses, Idaho should provide a voice in supporting a national ban of hands-free device usage while driving. As a state we should support bills such as Senator McCarthy’s proposed Safe Driver’s Act of 2011 so that one can eventually become law.
The purpose of the bill proposed by Congresswoman McCarthy of New York is “to enhance safety of individuals by banning the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving, and for other purposes” (H. R. 1). According to McCarthy there are two primary efforts to the bill that direct the Secretary of Transportation to establish regulations and require the DOT to conduct a two year study on distracted driving. The legislation is modeled after the National Minimum Legal Drinking Age Act and the nation’s federal Blood Alcohol Content standard.
She also points out that “the penalty for not complying with the DOT’s minimum standards within two years of enactment would be a withholding of 25 percent of a state’s federal highway transportation funding”. An editorial in the Idaho Press Tribune addresses concerns of those opposed to bans by stating, “Being able to stop drivers for texting alone would discourage the practice and save lives, just like DUI laws can keep drunk drivers off the road.
Obviously, people will continue to send texts and drive just like some continue to get behind the wheel after too many drinks, but a text ban would give officers an avenue to potentially prevent a tragedy”. This concept can be directly applied to any form of distracted driving, which are all dangerous and can’t be ignored. As an activist against distracted driving having been personally affected by tragedy, I propose that we draw out the humanistic trait of empathy and support legislation that would help prevent more injuries and deaths. Works Cited Abel, Glen. Idaho: Cell Phone Laws, Legislation. ” Idaho Text Messaging Laws. 2008-2011. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://handsfreeinfo. com/idaho-cell-phone-laws-legislation>. Callegari, John. “Rep. McCarthy, D-Mineola, Pushes for Handheld Phone Driving Ban. ” Editorial. Long Island Business News 23 June 2011. EBSCO. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. Copeland, Larry. “Despite the Data, Teens Missing Message on Risks. ” Editorial. USA Today 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. Hoffman, Wayne. “Texting Ban Creates Legal Enigma for Idahoans. ” Idaho Press-Tribune. The Idaho Press-Tribune, 2 Apr. 2012.