The Texting Block: How States are Trying to Prevent Distracted Driving

It seems impossible that cellphones weren’t always a part of day to day life. Today, it’s shocking to find someone without one. But as these devices have consumed popular culture, they also pose more risks. Discussions of their effect on the brain and overall bodily health have long been debated, but next to this is another undeniable concern: cellphones and driving are a terrible, and often deadly, combination. This is just what state legislators are trying to stop with recent bill proposals in Florida and Nebraska.

With the popularity of cellphones, there has also been a drastic increase in distracted driving related car accidents. Tallying the exact number of crashes related to cellphone use is difficult, since many cellphone related accidents go unreported, as noted by the National Safety Council.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there has been a decrease in handheld phone-call related use of cellphones while driving, but the visible manipulation of devices continues to increase, especially for drivers aged 16 to 24. Visible manipulation includes texting, checking navigation apps, and reading emails. The percentage of drivers in this age group recorded to be using a device while driving increased by 1.2% between 2010 and 2015. In 2015 alone, over 3,400 deaths were recorded as the result of distracted driving.

As distracted driving continues to be a problem, states have been trying to introduce legislation to increase the penalties for distracted driving due to the use of a cellphone.

On January 23rd, Florida’s SB 90, which looks to make texting and driving a primary offense, passed it’s third committee in the state’s senate. Legislators hope that by pressing harsher penalties more drivers will refrain from using a cellphone when driving. And while Floridians support an interest in increasing public safety by reducing distracted driving, there are concerns that the bill unfairly targets minorities.

In Nebraska, state senators have introduced similar bills-one allowing law enforcement to pull over drivers who appear to be texting and driving, while the second is the same as Florida’s: making it a primary offense.

“Even without complete data on the impact cellphone use has on driving safety, distracted driving due to cellphone use has quickly become an important issue. A single moment of distracted driving can have terrible effects, from medical bills, vehicle costs, and even death. Prevention and awareness are the first steps to reducing injuries and fatalities, so more states are trying to introduce more legislation to do so,” says Jason Baril, attorney and co-founder of Wreck Into A Check.

Many are unsure how the bills will proceed in the states’ senates, but one thing is for sure, taking steps to increase public awareness of distracted driving and increasing the penalty for texting while driving can reduce the dangers.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.