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Driving Under the Influence

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Submitted By CaramelFrost
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Drunk driving and devising ways to prevent it have been a long standing issue in our society, and rightfully so. However, there are individuals far worse dangerous to have behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. As reported in the American Journal of Public Health, a journal dedicated to the publication of original work in research, research methods, and program evaluation in the field of public health, Dr. Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson, in collaboration with the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), affirm that a person that is texting while driving is 23 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than a drunk driver (2010). Between 2005 and 2008, distracted driving fatalities increased more than 28% nationwide (Stimpson & Watson, 2010). Driving while texting has become an undeniable danger as these figures support. It is for this reason, as reported in the Dallas Morning News, that Texas lawmakers recently passed a bill, 124-16, to ban texting while driving (Hoppe, 2011). This bill has now gone on to seek much needed approval from the governor, Rick Perry. With so much support coming from the Texas House, it is expected for the bill to pass. However, one must keep in mind that Governor Perry has a penchant for vetoing bills, as was evident back in 2000 when he vetoed a record 83 bills in one day (CBSDFW.com, 2011). As of right now the state of Texas currently has a no-texting policy for licensed drivers under the age of 18 and anyone driving in a school zone (Hoppe, 2011). While these efforts are helping to increase safety in certain instances, there needs to be a broader ban. In order to decrease the number of fatalities and increase driver awareness on Texas state roadways and even lower insurance rates, it is crucial that this ban receive the approval of the governor so a clear message can be sent to drivers that choosing to be distracted while driving is not an option.

In order to decrease the number of fatalities and increase driver awareness on Texas state roadways and even lower insurance rates, it is crucial that this ban receive the approval of the governor so a clear message can be sent to drivers that choosing to be distracted while driving is not an option.

Currently there are only 30 states that have a ban on texting while driving (Stimpson & Wilson, 2010). Dr. Amy Ship stated in the New England Journal of Medicine that 28% of all car crashes in the United States stem from an individual either talking on a cell phone or texting while driving (2010). With these alarming figures, it is hard to believe that Texas has not jumped on the no-texting bandwagon sooner. Perhaps a lot of the hesitancy has to do with the argument that many of the persons that cause distracted driving accidents are teenagers and Texas already has a ban in place for this age group. This argument will be addressed in further detail momentarily.

We have become a society that needs to know everything instantaneously and that need has driven us to multi-task in ways that are not always safe. With the number of cell phone subscribers increasing annually, the number of text messages being transmitted is increasing as well. Wilson and Stimpson report that in 1999 only 1 in 3 persons had a cell phone and by 2008, 91% of all Americans were in possession of a cell phone (2010). In addition, the two also state that in 2002, states averaged approximately 19,500 text messages monthly and in 2008 that number increased to a whopping 2,000,000! Given this information, it should come as no surprise that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) proclaims on their website that one in four auto accidents throughout the state are caused by distracted drivers (2010). With these numbers constantly increasing, something must be done to curb the number of individuals that text while driving.

There are those individuals that may feel as though they won’t be impacted by a ban on texting while driving in the state of Texas because they aren’t a part of the group of people that engage in the act so having a fine in place won’t have any effect on their pocketbook. However, it is important to remember that those people that do text and drive aren’t getting into accidents with themselves. The costs, both direct and indirect, that are associated with an auto accident can range from car repairs, hikes in auto insurance premiums, medical bills, and time off from work, not to mention the potential loss of life at the hands of a distracted driver. TxDOT reports that in 2009, out of the 100,000 distracted driver accidents that occurred, 408 involved at least one fatality (2010). Had there been a ban in place in 2009, the number of fatalities could have been much less.

While 408 fatal car crashes is relatively high, 2009 actually saw an 11% percent decrease in the number of fatalities on Texas highways from the previous year (Texas Department of Transportation, 2010). Of course this is a great improvement and TxDOT attributes the decrease to more people wearing safety belts, safer roads, distracted driving campaigns, safer vehicles, and public campaigns that discourage drinking and driving (2010). Couldn’t there be an even larger increase if Governor Perry were to approve the texting while driving ban? Wouldn’t all Texas residents feel safer during their commutes if there were legislation in place that made texting while driving illegal? Over the last five years, Texas has dedicated $1.2 billion toward highway projects, statewide, that have the greatest potential for effectively reducing the number of auto accidents (Texas Department of Transportation, 2010). If it is true that safer roads have really played a part in decreasing the number of auto accidents, wouldn’t it be advantageous to develop a way to add to that improvement fund? With the proposed fines for texting while driving ranging from $1 to $200 (Hoppe, 2011), funds received from these citations could add to the funds already set aside for safer road projects in the state.

Some might argue that there should only be a concern for teenagers that text while driving and Texas already has laws on the books that prohibit such acts. While it is true that teen drivers are at a higher risk for car crashes because they have less experience behind the wheel, according to a published report in Pediatric Annals, which is America’s most widely read journal for continuing education in the medical field of pediatrics, teen drivers only account for 14% of fatal car accidents (Hoffman, 2010). That still leaves 86% of fatal car crashes that are caused by adult drivers who aren’t held accountable for texting while driving in some states. This same article also states that drivers who have been licensed for 18 months or less are also at a higher risk for car accidents (Hoffman, 2010). Keep in mind that all individuals do not receive their driver’s license at the age of 16, some may wait until adulthood. With that being said, some adult drivers can be just as inexperienced as their teenage counterparts.

Others may find themselves siding with Representative David Simpson, who believes that placing a ban on texting while driving would limit the freedoms of Texans and is no worse than having a child in the backseat or glancing at the speedometer (Hoppe, 2011). If one of the freedoms Rep. Simpson is referring to limiting is engaging in a potentially fatal car accident because one must send a text while driving, then yes, freedoms definitely need to be limited. If a woman in Corsicana, that lost her daughter because the daughter was sending a text to a friend when her vehicle struck another and died (Hoppe, 2011), had the choice of giving up her freedom to text while driving or having her daughter back it stands to reason that she would readily give up that freedom. Also, Rep. Simpson is not taking into consideration that some tasks are simply a part of driving and certain situations cannot always be avoided, such as glancing at the speedometer to ensure the speed limit is being adhered to. Sending or receiving a text message, however, is not imperative to operating a motor vehicle and causes the operator to stop focusing on their major task at the moment.

Public campaigns that discourage individuals from texting and driving are a great way to raise awareness and the state of Texas has done a great job with their Talk.Text.Crash. campaign (Texas Department of Transportation, 2010). However, campaigning can only go so far. At some point, legislation must be put into place to make texting while driving illegal. It would be different if the matter was simply auto accidents, but it is bigger than that. It is about the actual loss of human life occurring on Texas roadways on a regular basis. There has to be a time when the people and lawmakers of the state say that enough is enough and implement legislation to put an end to distracted drivers taking the lives of the innocent.

To compare, not wearing a seatbelt was not always cause enough for an individual to be stopped by law enforcement in the state of Texas. Most states now give law enforcement the power to pull a driver over for the sole purpose of issuing them a citation for not wearing their seatbelt. The reason for this legislation is similar to that of the no texting while driving bill. Both are in the best interest of the public because they both strive to save lives and increase safe driving. Before many states made it illegal not to wear a seatbelt, State Legislature Magazine reports that safety advocates argued that the most effective way to increase use and decrease fatalities and injuries was to pass enforcement laws (Goehring, 1999). If the governor signs this bill into law, the law could go into effect immediately and drivers that are caught texting while driving would be pulled over and issued a citation. Again, it is proposed that the fines range from anywhere from $1 to $200 (Hoppe, 2011), but the higher the fine the more likely people are to adhere to the law. If an individual is given two citations within a year’s time, they should have their licensed restricted or suspended and be required to do some sort of community service. Drunk drivers are held to strict penalties and seeing as how texting while driving is even more dangerous, these individuals should face harsh punishments as well.…...

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