Skip a Message, Save a Life

Texting can be dangerous. Minor texting-associated problems range from sore thumbs to academic procrastination; more hazardous side effects may include collisions with stationary objects and strained vision. Texting and driving, however, has by far the most severe consequences. While texting and driving poses a known threat to a driver, her passengers, and nearby vehicles, such a phenomenon occurs altogether too often in American society. Consequently, the United States should encourage states to ban texting and driving.

Texting while driving is ubiquitous in the United States. Unfortunately, the known consequences of distracted driving have not successfully deterred individuals from peeking at their messages behind the wheel. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2011, 31% of American drivers aged 18 to 64 admitted to simultaneously driving and sending text or email messages (“Distracted Driving”). Teenagers in particular are guilty of engaging in this practice, and 58% of 18 year olds in one study confessed to doing so (“Study: Texting While Driving Now Leading”). Of course, the frequency of texting and driving does not diminish the phenomenon’s repercussions. Not only is a driver twenty-three times more likely to crash while texting (“The Dangers of Texting While Driving”), but Cohen Children’s Medical Center reports that this occurrence has become the foremost cause of teenage death  (“Study”). The 3,328 deaths in 2012 that were attributed to sending messages while driving substantiate this frightening claim (“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”). These statistics ought to discourage new drivers from texting and driving; the regularity of distracted driving-related hospitalizations, however, contradicts such an

Legislation has already been passed in an attempt to ameliorate the issue at hand. The federal government itself cannot truly prohibit texting and driving, as doing so would infringe upon states’ “police powers” (i.e. the ability to enact laws to protect the safety of their citizens) (“Texting and Driving”). Several states, however, have taken the initiative and instituted their own texting bans. For example, texting while driving is illegal in 44 states, including New York and Pennsylvania (“Distracted Driving Laws”). 14 states even prevent drivers from speaking on hand-held cell phones while driving (“Distracted Driving Laws”). The national government has also taken moderate steps to combat the problem. In September 2009, President Obama passed an executive order that prohibited federal employees from texting “while driving on government business or with government equipment” (“Distracted Driving”). Similarly, in October 2010 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibited commercial vehicle drivers from simultaneously texting and driving (“Distracted Driving”). While these specific, targeted forms of national intervention do tackle a portion of the problem, more significant national action is needed to truly remedy the situation.

The private sector is also fighting texting and driving. In fact, major service providers have created campaigns aimed at publicizing the problem and deterring individuals from partaking. For instance, AT&T has played a major role in the battle against texting. The provider’s “It Can Wait” campaign airs disturbing commercials that show the serious consequences of texting and driving, and its DriveMode app “automatically [disables] texting when the phone is traveling more than 25 miles per hour.” (“AT&T Chief Speaks Out”) The efforts of major companies like AT&T are also augmented by numerous websites, blogs, and publications that delineate the gruesome statistics of, and encourage readers not to participate in, texting and driving.

While commendable, these efforts have not adequately impacted the driving community. A lack of federal intervention has diminished the apparent severity of the crisis at hand, painting texting and driving as an unsafe but acceptable practice. The national government cannot institute a sweeping ban, but it can encourage the enactment of texting and driving legislation by withholding national funding from noncompliant states (“Texting and Driving”). Such federal action would both alter America’s distorted perception of texting and driving and ensure that the dangerous practice is completely outlawed. In addition, the implementation of this reform ought to be relatively easy and uncontroversial, as many states have already instituted their own regulations. Of course, this necessary and simple solution should only be part of a more widespread campaign to combat texting and driving; national involvement, however, should begin driving the process forward.


Works Cited:

“Distracted Driving:”

“Study: Texting While Driving Now Leading:”

“The Dangers of Texting While Driving:”

“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.:”

“Distracted Driving Laws:”

“Texting and Driving:”

“AT&T Chief Speaks Out:”