One of the keystones of Illinois traffic-safety laws is the ban on texting while driving that applies to all types of drivers of all ages. Of course, it is logical that texting while your eyes and attention should be on the road and your hands on the wheel is a dangerous activity. Not surprisingly, the statistics paint a grim picture of just how hazardous texting behind the wheel actually can be.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. As part of their efforts to combat distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has employed the use of the hashtag #justdrive in personally responding to Twitter users. The NHTSA campaign finds tweets mentioning or admitting to texting and driving and responds to them with an individualized message discouraging the practice. The social media campaign has drawn attention as an unusual choice for a government agency. The campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the month.
Among the ten items listed on the National Transportation Safety Board's Most Wanted List for 2016 is a call to disconnect from deadly distractions. Distracted driving has been identified as a large and growing problem among highway safety experts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,179 died in fatal accidents in 2014 due to distracted drivers. State Farm reports that nearly 30 percent of survey respondents acknowledged using the Internet while driving in 2015. That figure is up from 13 percent in 2009.
The majority of U.S. states have banned texting while driving. In an effort to attract new buyers, automakers are introducing larger and more advanced dashboard displays, some of which allow drivers to read text messages. Lawmakers and safety experts are concerned about the potential for increased levels of distracted driving based on the latest trends in dashboard technology.
Distracted driving is widely acknowledged as a dangerous activity. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, More than 95 percent of licensed drivers believe that drivers who text, email or use social media while driving are a "somewhat" or "very" serious threat to their personal safety. This belief has not put an end to distracted driving, however. More than one-third of survey respondents admit to reading texts or emails while driving. More than one-quarter admit to writing or sending texts and emails while driving. An insurance company is using a new tool to help encourage drivers to avoid distracted driving.
Distracted driving is a massive problem that has garnered more attention since cell phone use became commonplace. Cell phones are far from the only cause of distracted driving, however. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 2012 saw more than 3,300 deaths and 421,000 injuries caused by distracted drivers. According to Forbes, more than 60 percent of distracted driving deaths are caused by drivers who were daydreaming. The NHTSA estimates that the average driver is distracted 30 percent of the time. For whatever reason, many drivers fail to put their full concentration where it belongs - on the task of driving safely.
The increasing popularity of smart phones has had a noticeable impact on driver behavior, according to a new study from State Farm. Annual surveys conducted by the insurance company demonstrate that smart phone-specific behaviors such as surfing the Internet, checking email and accessing social media sites have risen steadily over the past six years. The impact on the total amount of distracted driving is somewhat offset by a reduction in being using cell phones for actual calls while behind the wheel. The survey shows that cell phone use of one type or another has continued to rise among drivers.
Two recent studies have called into question the safety of voice-activated technology used by drivers. Distracted driving accidents injured an estimated 421,000 people in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA defines distracted driving as "any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving." The definition does not say anything about taking the driver's hands off the wheel. This is an important thing to note due to the rise of hands-free and voice-activated technology.
General Motors is investing in new technology designed to track the eyes and face of the people driving their vehicles. The information gathered is used to determine whether a driver is succumbing to fatigue or distraction. If a driver turns his or her attention away from the road for too long, such devices could trigger a warning tone or other form of correction.
Recent research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health analyzed the impact of texting bans and found that they have been effective. Illinois was one of 24 states to ban texting by drivers of any age during the period analyzed in the study, 2000 to 2010. An additional seven states banned texting by young drivers with provisional licenses. Illinois was also among the states that allowed primary enforcement of the texting ban. That means that police officers here can stop and cite a driver solely for the act of texting behind the wheel. States with secondary enforcement statutes only allow drivers to be cited for texting after they have been stopped for some other offense.