Any time you get behind the wheel of a car, you’re potentially putting the lives of dozens of other people at risk – including those in your vehicle and on the road. This is especially true when it comes to distracted driving – which is sometimes the direct result of texting while driving.
The Problem of Texting and Driving
Texting and driving is a topic that is discussed fairly frequently in the media, but one that doesn’t necessarily resonate with a lot of drivers – young drivers in particular. According to research by The Zebra:
- 36 percent of drivers aged 18-24 admit to texting while driving.
- Fatalities involving texting while driving account for 9 percent of all fatal car accidents nationwide.
- At any given time, roughly 7 percent of drivers on the road are using a cell phone.
- In 2018, crashes resulting from texting and driving were responsible for $129 billion of societal damage.
- Texting while driving is six-times more likely to cause a car accident than drunk driving.
Texting and driving is one of the leading causes of personal injury in the United States. In other words, we have a massive problem. And though people like to talk about texting and driving as a problem, few offer practical solutions for how we can move past it.
Until a myriad of solutions are introduced, the mitigating effect will be minimal.
3 Practical Solutions
There probably isn’t a singular fix to the texting and driving epidemic in this nation. Instead, we need a variety of solutions that, when used in tandem, will produce change. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Hands-Free Devices
There are a number of hands-free devices on the market that cater to drivers who need the ability to communicate while behind the wheel, but don’t want their phones to distract them from focusing on the road. But for many years, road safety professionals have wondered whether these hands-free solutions actually lower the risk of being involved in an accident. According to research from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), hands-free technology really does work.
“Any activity that places either visual or manual demands on the driver — texting, browsing or dialing a hand-held phone, for instance — substantially increases crash risk. However, our recent study has found that the primarily cognitive secondary task of talking on a hands-free device does not appear to have any detrimental effects,” says Tom Dingus, director of VTTI and the principal investigator of the study.
The findings from this study are encouraging and signal the possibility for widespread implementation leading to significant improvements in road safety. Thousands of drivers already use hands-free devices, and most auto manufacturers are actually including hands-free functions in their newest vehicle models.
2. Driving Apps
With navigation built in to many of today’s newest vehicles, there really isn’t much of a need for having access to a smartphone while driving. In light of this, a handful of new apps and solutions are helping drivers out by disabling some of the most distracting functions of smartphones while drivers are behind the wheel. Nissan is even playing around with the idea of including one of these solutions in their vehicles.
“Called the Nissan Signal Shield, it’s basically a Faraday cage for your phone — a compartment which blocks electromagnetic signals (that includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular signals), both outgoing and ingoing,” tech blogger Stan Schroeder writes. “Put your phone inside, and it will stay silent until you pull it out again.”
Other programmers and developers are working on apps that actually block a driver’s signal, while allowing other passengers in the vehicle to continue accessing the features on their own phones.
3. Stricter State Laws
In addition to using hands-free devices and driving apps to reduce the amount of distraction caused by smartphones, more states would benefit from implementing stricter laws regarding the use of handheld devices while behind the wheel.
Though texting while driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia, currently just 18 states have a ban on handheld devices for all drivers. The sooner this changes, the faster the consequences can be put into action.
Putting Texting and Driving in the Rearview Mirror
As long as there are smartphones and vehicles that are operated by human drivers, texting and driving will be an issue. However, with the right mixture of behavioral change, technology, and legislation, we can make it less of a problem tomorrow than it is today. Let’s work together and find the appropriate solutions to this horrible problem.